There’s always one thing

One thing that I just can’t get to in the course of a week, that is.

Does that ever happen to you? Like...

~ The house might be clean, but you just can’t make yourself empty the dishwasher.
~ The dishes might all be clean and put away, but you cannot, physically cannot, manage to fold the laundry.
~ The laundry might be all fresh-smelling and perfectly folded (fitted sheets in a perfect square? Mine are, thanks to being the daughter of Karen Kortuem, the Home Ec major), but vacuuming up the Harry hair (OK, this might not apply to you) floating around the floors would put you over the edge.

(Cats. Waiting for me to vacuum...)

And how do you handle it all? Or don’t you and then you just forgive yourself?

Please, please tell me!

Obviously, the thing this week for me was blogging. (Actually, there have been some towels languishing in the dryer, waiting to be folded, too, but anyway…)

And the saddest thing is that there’s really so much I want to talk about, to tell you, to share.


~ A wedding that took place 10 minutes into the official start of autumn.
~ A funeral and wedding in one day that both had big confusion about the same song (weird!).
~ A big epiphany I had about my outlook on life (I’ll tell you and you’ll probably say “duh!” but still…)
~ The latest in the “Do you play Canon in D?” saga
~ Cat pictures. Because they’re cold lately and don’t have full winter coats and are oh-so-snuggly and cute.

So. I haven’t disappeared. And now that the big freelance project I’ve been working on is (almost) done, the two-harp-playing-event weekends have turned to one-harp-playing-event weekends, I’ve vacuumed and I’ve actually unloaded the dishwasher, it’s time to blog again.

Please, stop in next week. I promise we'll get caught up then!


Not how I wanted to spend $50

Nope. Not on these.

I've been playing the harp so much lately and have been putting in longer hours at work. Last weekend when I was playing at a wedding, I started thinking that I deserved a treat. Nothing extravagant. But something nice. Something pretty. Maybe a new ring I've been coveting from the Arhaus Jewels catalog, all silver and big freshwater pearl. Maybe clicking "order" on my amazon.com shopping cart. Or maybe a little visit to the Chanel counter at Macy's for a new lip gloss shade for fall.

Then the harp cart got a flat tire.

Those tires have a big job to do. 
The harp weighs 100 pounds. The cart itself is nearly 75 pounds.
Wobbly, squishy tires just won't do.

So I stopped at C&S Supply after the wedding and told the first guy I could find that I needed tires. What size? he asked. Ummm...I said. So I took him out to the truck and showed him the cart. Wow, he said. Then he wrote some stuff down and led me into the very back of the store to the tires. 

$50 gone, just like that. So long, San Remo ring. See you later, amazon.com cart. Forget about it, Chanel.

My nice Dad...

I called him when I got home and told him I had a flat tire, would he help me fix it? Where are you, I'll come get you, he said, Dad-style. On my porch, I said. Where? Dad asked. The cart and the new tires are on the porch, I said. Oh, Dad said. You didn't tell me it was the harp cart with a flat tire.


He changed the tires in 15 minutes. I rolled the cart around and it was perfectly balanced, absolutely steady. Tried to squeal out around a corner to show off the nice tread. He rolled his eyes, Dad-style. His visits are always a treat.


Harry gets a bath

It's not what I wanted to do Saturday. That morning, I'd played my harp at a funeral. In the afternoon, I played for a wedding. I was tired and looking forward to some lunch and a nice long nap, maybe going for a run and then taking a bath.

Then Harry escaped and decided to roll in the dusty dirt of the garden.
Remember, he's an all-white cat.

Bad kitty.

Bad, bad, bad kitty.

Very, very bad kitty.

I took Harry back outside to try to brush him off, but it only made things worse and ground all the dirt deeper into his fluffiness. I didn't want to. But I had no choice. I shut the bathroom door, filled up my beautiful white claw foot tub with warm water and dunked Harry in it. After a few dramatic escape attempts and giving me the dirtiest looks ever, he was pretty good. I lathered him up with some French-milled natural soap from Provence that he loves to lick when I forget to cover the soap dish (so I figured it would be safe for him to be bathed in it). He shook and splashed and meowed pitifully.

Have you ever seen anything so pathetic?
He was mighty embarrassed. 

I spent the next 45 minutes trying to dry him off so he wouldn't get the entire house wet.
He hated it.

By the time we were done, I was hot and sweaty and covered in dust myself. I skipped the lunch and the nap and the run and just went straight for the bath myself. A long, hot, soaking bath. With French-milled soap from Provence. And a glass of wine. And a still-wet Harry hiding behind the toilet. 
 An hour or so later, he was back to his beautiful self.
He smelled pretty good, too.
He even hopped onto my lap to give me kisses. I think he forgives me.


No wonder my purse was so heavy

Pays to clean out your purse. You might find:
~ that new bottle of Feliway "kitty potpourri" for the diffuser
~ three little jars of Bonne Maman preserves you stole from the hotel buffet three weeks ago
~ the tuning wrench for your Celtic harp (so THAT's where it's been)
~ an empty bottle of hand lotion
(not pictured: at least 10 old kleenexes, gum wrappers, paper clips and 7 pens)

What's weighing your purse down? The craziest thing you've ever found in it?
Do share.


The thanks I get

Jingle Belle likes to sit on the back of the couch and survey her domain. She's safe there, and out of the way of Harry and Sam's boy-cat antics.

The nest I've had there for her was pretty ragged. Clawed up, full of holes, covered in hair, kind of stinky, not cushiony anymore. So I got her a new one last week - all fuzzy fleece and soft, so soft.

And this is the thanks I got.

I picked her up and put her in the new nest thinking she'd turn around a few times, do some kneading and snuggle right in. But she popped out of it like it was on fire and hid her face in the cushions of the couch. Tail-end toward me. No amount of coaxing could get her into the nest. After a day or so I started searching for the receipt to return it.

Then I walked by and saw this.

And this.

Oh yeah. Belle and the new nest are one.
On her own time.


In times of grief, there's music

The music I played at a funeral on Thursday.

I usually don't play for the funerals of people I don't know. I don't deal with others' grief well. The family having to comfort a blubbering harpist while they are busy grieving doesn't do anybody any good.

At family funerals, it's different. It's ok to blubber, to break down, to get tears on the strings. I've done it several times. The first funeral I played for was my Grandpa Bahr's. It was hard. Grandpa had been struggling with dementia for years. I'd played at the nursing home for him, but I don't think he realized what was happening, or even who was playing. But at the funeral, I know that the very simple "Amazing Grace" I played added dignity and love and calm to a sad day and a divided family. I played for Grandma Bahr's funeral, too. It was right after I got my pedal harp. I played "In the Garden" - the hymn she used to sing to me while she rocked me to sleep - at the funeral. There's a wicked pedal change for the accidentals in the refrain at "...and He tells me I am His own." I don't know how I managed it, my hands and feet trembling and my heart breaking, but I did. When Grandma Kortuem died, I accompanied a soloist on the Schubert "Ave Maria" at her funeral. It felt so right, so beautiful, sending her along with that prayer.

But last week, a supporter of my music emailed to tell me his wife had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and asked if I would be willing to play for the service when the time came, that his wife had made the request herself, that knowing I would be playing my harp at her funeral gave her such peace. I knew it was the right thing to do. I said yes. The call came the next day that she had died, so soon. The funeral was Thursday.

A Celtic bard had to know three types of music to help the community process emotions: the musics of dancing, sleeping and weeping. It was weeping music that I played during the prelude and service. I played "slowly and emotionally" as the music noted but also with the intention of sending out healing on the sound. I heard sniffing and catching breaths and sighing, but I played on. There was nose blowing and throat clearing. But I was strong. I was doing my job. I knew that this is the work that makes a difference.

That night, I got a text from a high school friend who has been battling cancer for years. She told me it's back, it's spreading, that chemo might not conquer it this time. She ask if I would play "How Great Thou Art" at her funeral, if and when the time came, that knowing I would be there filling the space with music would make everyone feel better. Yes, I told her. Of course I'll be there, fulfilling my duties as a friend and a bard.

Oh, the healing, the comforting power of music.


Making sauce

Dad's tomatoes.
Mom's basil.
Ethel's pan.
Nicole Helget's recipe (garlic and onions, tomatoes and fresh basil, etc.)

Three hours of simmering in my kitchen with the bounty of these good people surrounding me.
A beautiful way to spend an evening.


Amy Kortuem: Zucchini Slayer - Part 2

The last batch of zucchini bread was disastrous. Tasted fine, but the exploding batter and the resulting mess in my oven and the smoke filling the house was not fun. Not fun at all.

But Amy Kortuem the Zucchini Slayer is not one to give up easily. This was quick bread, for crying out loud. What could possibly be so hard? I put out the call for a good recipe for a nebulous "next time."

Well, fate intervened. Last Friday, I got a Facebook message from a friend at work that there was another monster zucchini at the give-away table, just waiting for me. Fairly calling my name. I had taken the day off work, but drove up there to fetch this big beauty:

I think it's even bigger than the last one.

In the oven, using Grandma Freda's pans for luck.

 Success. SUCCESS, people. 
(Amy Kortuem the Zucchini Slayer does a victory dance around her kitchen 
with the butcher knife she used to massacre that zucchini in her hand...)

I decided to try Mary Bergemann's recipe (via my Mom) first. I have enough shredded zucchini in the freezer to make two more batches...next time I'm trying my friend Valerie's chocolate zucchini bread recipe. Stay tuned.


I get by with a little help from my...chef de partie

I'd been planning on having friends over on Saturday for about a month. I knew I wanted to serve prosecco in my champagne flutes. I wanted to make some homemade flatbread pizzas (with this recipe for the dough from Mom) and serve them up on Jadeite plates with cloth napkins and my silverplate flatware. I wanted to pick some green hydrangeas from my garden and have them in vases around the house. I wanted to light candles and play good music on the stereo and sit back and laugh and relax with my friends.

But the day sneaked up on me. It was midnight on Friday by the time I finished and submitted a writing project barely under deadline. I still hadn't cleaned the bathroom and Harry had done one of his wiggling rolls across the floor and left a trail of hair in his wake. I knew I wouldn't be able to get much of anything done Saturday because I had to play at a wedding out of town.

On Saturday morning Mom and I talked before I headed out to the wedding. I told her I was going to be lucky if I got a chance to put out a fresh roll of toilet paper in the bathroom and vacuum up the worst of the hair balls and buy some boring cheese and crackers before the get-together.

An hour or so later, Mom called me back saying that she had made up the flatbread dough for me and I could pick it up on my way home from the wedding. All I had to do was roll it out and top it and bake it. I love my Mom - she can be my "chef de partie" anytime.

Greek style with tomatoes, garlic-stuffed olives, feta cheese and seasonings.

Margherita style with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella cheese and balsamic vinegar.
And a few avocado slices on top for fun.

Served with a tired but happy smile.

I did get some candles lit, but I didn't get the hydrangeas picked. We ate off my Jadeite, but with our fingers and with paper napkins right at the kitchen counter. I forgot about the procecco - my friends brought ready-to-serve margaritas (which we drank from a crappy juice glass) and a variety of interesting beers (straight from the bottles). I drank cheap white wine that was already open in the fridge out of the oldest scuffed and chipped wine glass I have. I did manage to push "play" on the stereo and it turns out we listened to my favorite Coldplay song on repeat for the next few hours (because I'm so good with technology). Not that we noticed. We were too busy relaxing, talking, laughing.


Harps in old churches

 An old Methodist church in a small town in southern Minnesota. 
Waiting for the wedding guests to arrive.

There are a lot of things to worry about when you know you're going to play the harp in an old church. Like if you'll be able to fit the harp and cart through the narrow doors. Like if the building will be air conditioned. Like if you'll be able to fit the harp in at the front without having to place it high up on the platform and thus distract attention from the bride and groom.

But mostly, I worry about being able to manage to haul the harp up the flights and flights of stairs old churches always have on the way to the sanctuary.

On Saturday, I needn't have worried about the stairs, though there were plenty.
This old church had been updated with an elevator. Miraculous.
Harp in, push the button...

...and up...

...and up some more...

 ...and voila! 
The harp at the sanctuary level and I didn't even have to get a hernia 
or break a sweat lugging the harp up stairs.

And we're ready for the wedding to begin, easy as that.


I think I need a wall full of chandeliers...

This was the decor at the wedding I played at last weekend. 
I want a wall full of chandeliers and hanging crystals behind my harps.
I think it would help with practicing.

Where do you need a little glam in your life? Tell me all about it. I love getting distracted by shiny things. 

Have a sparkly weekend, my friends.