Monday, November 24, 2008

Gift ideas - both ususual and un-

Part 1: A book for the kids

If you have a young person on your gift list perhaps they would enjoy Arthur the Moose. This children's book was written by internationally-know artist, Cabot Lyford (who happens to be Julia's dad) It is about a moose with seasonal affective disorder who tries to fly south for the winter - without a plane!

Click here to see an on-line preview of the book.

Part 2: Castlebay CD holiday sale

We are also running a holiday special from now until Christmas. You can buy ten Castlebay CDs for $100 - any mix of our 14 available titles. We'll even pay the shipping. Our CDs make great gifts - give them to people you like who are into Celtic and folk music.

If you have somebody on your list who hates our music give them one for revenge - they probably did something bad to you.

Click here to go to our order page.

Part 3 : Socially Responsible Gifts
Animals from

Heifer International Foundation
I thought I would this links for responsible gift givers. A couple of years ago we were faced with the usual dilemma of finding a gift for an older successful fellow who has everything he needs or wants. We used to give him cigars, patté and booze - all of which he has quit consuming. What we did was get half of a water buffalo from the Heifer Foundation in his name. It was given (along with the other half) to a family somewhere in the Philippians. Heifer usually gives pregnant critters so that people on a subsistence economy can get a leg up.

Here's what Walter Cronkite says about Heifer:

"If there is one thing I could give to the struggling people of the world it would be self-reliance.

Everyone deserves the dignity of providing for themselves and their families. That's why I support Heifer International."

— Walter Cronkite,
journalist and Heifer supporter

Part 4: A Book About Hope

Another remarkable organization is the Earth Charter Initative This is a collaborative document written as a charter for a just and sustainable worldwide economy. The members are largely NGOs, although many countries have signed on. (The US has an official policy of "sustained" rather than sustainable development)

The Earth Charter in Action is a book which celebrates individuals and groups who have implemented the earth charter in their communities. Edited by Peter Blaze Cochran, this is a handsome book and an inspiring read.

Probably the least expensive gift you could possibly give would be a link for a free download of The Earth Charter In Action

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Weather notes - or how we got blindsided by the cold

There's never a dull moment with the weather in New England. Last Saturday night we were en route from our gig in Hampton Beach to our friend Larry's house in Manchester, MA. We passed a bank time/temperature clock and it was 70° at midnight! How fickle the vagaries of the weather - we were lulled into complacency then, night before last it was 11°! There are some plants that haven't been planted and some carrots that haven't been harvested. There's also a slightly damp load of sand that was delivered here last week to finish leveling the floor of the addition. It's now a very frozen lump. As soon as we find the longhandles we'll get the yard cleaned up before the s*** falls.

Recording session and a seisiùn

We were visiting Larry Young over the weekend to capture his fiddling with our portable digital recorder. Larry is a great player and also a lot of fun. We went early so we could sit in at his regular seisiùn in Salem on Friday evening. It was great fun to play some tunes and sing a few songs at O'Neils.
Larry has agreed to do some tracks for the Robert Burns project we are working on. We have about half of the recording started and four pieces are pretty well finished. I still think we can have it in time for Burns's birthday, but it will require some very focused work. If I get a chance I'll post some samples here on the blog.

We're in Cyber-space!

Some of our alert fans let us know that our recording, Harvest Home, is featured on the opening page of iTunes. Thanks to Leigh and Harmony for pointing this out.

We did Harvest Home last year for a Los Angeles concern. It is a compilation of tunes from the Tapestry series with some additional tracks played on period instruments: suitable music for devouring turkeys.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

West to Pittsburgh

You asked for a close up of a Faerie Pumpkin. It just so happens that we have a photo! This is one of the artificial pumpkins. I don't know how they cut them, maybe they use a laser device.

While we're doing pumpkin closeups, here is one of the Celtic knotwork pumpkins.

New Germany Lake

We didn't stay in this cabin but at another nearby. New Germany Lake is almost all the way to the western end of Maryland. We did a concert for the Friends of New Germany Lake. The views were wonderful, although the locals were complaining about a wind farm on the horizon. I recently heard an energy guru speak about adjusting our aesthetic sensibilities. If we are using energy we should be willing to have the source in our view. It's an interesting concept.


We scooted up to Pittsburgh after our concert at the Citizen's Library in Washington (PA) to play a house concert for Annie Trimble. It was on the south side of the city, so we didn't have to navigate through Pittsburgh - which makes Boston look like a walk in the park. I spent a lot of time here back when I was an engineer 20 years ago. The view of the city from Mount Washington is spectacular. Many people still think the city is covered with smoke and ash from the steel mills, but the last furnace closed in the 1960's.

One of my favorite restaurants, Piccolo Piccolo, is gone but the Grand Concourse is still in operation, although at the time we were there they weren't serving. We often get stranded between lunch and dinner when we are traveling. The Grand Concourse is the train station built at the height of Pittsburgh's prosperity and they spared no expense. The ceiling is by Tiffany, the floors are marble, etc.

An Amazing Effort - but why?This is not a real magnolia tree. It is a sculpture in a little park in the city. One has to admire the tenacity of the artist in making all those blossoms.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Belated Halloween Report

The foliage this year was particularly brilliant. Julia took this photo just before we left on out autumn tour.

I had imagined that I would send out some blogs as we were on the road, but somehow never found the quiet time to write anything, so I'll be posting our adventures over the next few days.

The Damariscotta Pumpkin Festival

Five years ago a couple of local guys who had grown a large pumpkin (about 700 lbs) decided to try making it into a boat. After cutting a hole in the flat side and adding a deck, transom, and small outboard motor, they got it into the river and putted around the town landing in Damariscotta. The next year there were three pumpkin boats, then a dozen or so. Last year the chamber of commerce got involved and now we have a four day festival on Columbus Day weekend.

The streets are lined with smaller pumpkins (300-400 lbs) which are decorated by local artists. This spider must have startled anybody with arachnophobia!

The 700-800 lb pumpkins are made into boats. There is now a motor and a paddle division. The REALLY big pumpkins (1000 lbs and up) are in the parade but are too big for making into boats.

We were working that day so I didn't get any photos but here is a video. The outriggers are a new idea. You can clearly see the weight (798) on the white pumpkin.

The Sleepy Hollow Pumpkin Blaze

Our first stop on our trip was with friends in Sleepy Hollow, NY. There they have a month-long display with about 5000 lighted pumpkins. About half the pumpkins are real and half are artificial. The real ones are replaced as they decay.

The artificial pumpkins are often elaborately carved and are arranged in display groupings. We saw life size T-rex, pirates, ghosts, faeries, flowers, celtic knots - it was really amazing.

What is this about???

We live without a television and consequently have missed a lot of popular culture (and also political campaign broadcasts) over the last twenty years. Can anybody tell me what this is about?? Julia took this picture from the window of the car as we were riding down I-84 in New York.Either the giant Bud bottles or the life size orca would be understandable but together?

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