Saturday, April 30, 2011

Our Royal Wedding Viewing Party and Tea

Our Royal Wedding Viewing Party and Tea made for a fun day as we watched Prince William marry Kate Middleton. Our hostess, Duane, made a lovely wedding cake as the centerpiece among the finger sandwiches and treats on a table adorned in royal blue and cream colors in her dining room.  In the living/viewing area, we set up candies on the coffee table along with vintage demitasse cups for tea.

There was no shortage of hats among the ladies although our male friends decided to forgo head adornments in favor of diving into the food.
We had some handmade and hand 'embellished'  hats along with some very pretty gloves! Vicki brought a box of beautiful vintage ladies handkerchiefs and insisted that each of us choose one to keep.  Even the guys picked some out for the ladies in their lives. 

One of our guy friends, in particular, took quite a liking to the lovely Pippa Middleton, sister of the bride and Maid of Honor.  Every time Pippa was shown on the screen we were all relieved that Randy was here and NOT in London. (Just kidding, Randy!) 

Our hostess, Duane.
Duane did a wonderful job hosting our little event in her lovely home and we had a great time.  In addition to the sandwiches and wonderful homemade scones provided by Duane, we were all on a 'sugar high' by the end of the afternoon due to the candies, fudge, cinnamon rolls and petit fours.  Luckily, these events don't roll around too often so we didn't hold back in our enjoyment. 

Here's to Prince William and his lovely bride, Catherine!  A beautiful wedding, from the gowns and hats to the trees in Westminster Abbey.  And we all LOVED the ride the couple took in the Aston Martin.  (I want that car!) 

Sunday, April 24, 2011


My favorite time to record is usually in the afternoon. No time will ever be without some outside noise but I've found that this window of time is good if I finish recording before people begin driving home from work and the interstate noise makes it to my window. (Yes, the window is closed but huge trucks really rumble.)

One of the noises I've become accustomed to between 3:30 and 4:00pm is the school bus stopping at the corner of my street to drop off high school students. Since the bus is pretty loud and the brakes really squeal, I just stop and wait for it to pass to continue. I rode school buses at least half the time up through high school. Depending on where we lived and how close the school was, I sometimes walked or rode my bike. Everyone I knew hated taking the bus. I always think of the scene from my favorite John Hughes movie, Sixteen Candles, where Molly Ringwald talks about the indignities of riding the bus. The scene showing the bus and the sound of kazoos is perfect.
"I loathe the bus."

There was one place we lived where I really didn't mind it, though. This was in Texas during some of my high school years. We lived on Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio.

Randolph is considered the 'showplace' of the Air Force and the on-base schools were first class. Our house was on a corner right across the street from the flight line (the airport for the base) so we had planes taking off and landing at all times of the day and night. The war in Vietnam was still going on.

There was a school on base for 7th-12th grade. Because I went to this school and then finished at a high school in Florida, I never attended a junior high or middle school. It was an interesting experience to be walking the hallways with people as much as 6 years older if you were in the 7th grade. Of course, the younger kids didn't share the same classes with the older students but we ate in the same cafeteria, used the same library and rode the same school buses.

Randolph High School (that's what it was called) was located on the other side of the flight line from my house. In order to get there, we had to cross the flight line. There were stop signs and it wasn't unusual to have to stop while a plane taxied across in front of the bus -- just like a car or truck would at an intersection. After we cleared the flight line, there was a winding two lane road that lead to the school.
Our bus driver's name was Daniel. He was Mexican and he was still working on his English. He wore a neat uniform of navy pants and a white shirt and always greeted us with a big smile every morning and afternoon. He had a thick head of hair with some gray going through it but I really had no idea how old he was. His teeth weren't in the greatest shape but he was one of those people who seemed to have more of them than other people. Maybe it seemed that way because he smiled so much.

Daniel greeted each of us when we got on the bus in the morning. He never seemed to mind when any of us asked him questions about where he was from or what it was like there. (My family took a couple of quick trips to Mexico but, of course, that's not the same as knowing the people.)

One day, on the way to school, while we were on the curved road that lead from the flight line to the school, Daniel had to swerve slightly to avoid hitting something in the road. That caused the back of the bus to 'fishtail' slightly and, of course, we loved it. After that we'd beg Daniel to 'please do fishtails!' and, sometimes he would when we were on that section of road with no one else around. It was exhilarating and left us all breathless and begging for more. Daniel would laugh and put his hand up and say 'enough' after one or two. This went on for awhile and, even though we didn't get to 'fishtail' everyday, just the possibility sure made riding the bus a lot more fun.

One morning when I stepped on the bus and looked up, I noticed that Daniel wasn't in the driver's seat. We thought he was sick or on vacation but discovered that, in the words of one of my compadres, 'someone squealed' on Daniel. We figured that one of the kids had told their parents about the 'fun' we had on the bus or maybe we had been seen when we thought no one was around. Either way, Daniel lost his job.

Our new driver was a short solid woman named Margie who often had roller skates hanging on a hook near the driver's seat. Roller derby was big in the late '60's and early '70's and Margie skated on a team. That's all I ever knew about her and, other than Daniel, she's the only bus driver I remember from riding school buses in six different states while growing up. I think I only remember her because she followed Daniel.

We all wondered what happened to Daniel after that. Was he able to get another job? Everyone hoped so. Other than our 'fishtails', he was actually a pretty skillful driver. I hope he was able to earn a living for himself. Even after I became an adult, I still couldn't bring myself to condemn him for possibly endangering those of us on the bus. I was a careful kid who always played it safe. Maybe that's what appealed to me so much about those rides. After all these years, I can still see him in his uniform with that smile. I've never forgotten him. In the mid 1990's, I submitted a poem I wrote about him to a small 'literary' magazine called "Summer Treasures III -- An Anthology of Original Poems" and they published it.



all it takes is the sight of a school bus,
or glimpses of Mexican faces
along the San Antonio river walk, and
I jump back twenty years and up
three steps through the open bus doors,
past Daniel's broken-toothed grin which
slowly split his face until
it resembled a brown jack-o-lantern.
His weathered skin and rough hands fighting
the neat creases of his crisp shirt and pants.

"Do fish-tails!" we pleaded.

Daniel slowly turned the mammoth wheel
left and then right, left, right, until
the big yellow bus began to sway
and then careen.  We screamed,
"Faster, faster!"  Our fear as meager
as his English.  The thrill too brief,
soon replaced by the steady steering of
a new driver, identically outfitted,
whose face I never see.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Finished my hat but still waiting on that invite...

After looking at a number of sites with pictures of 'fascinator' hats and going through the materials I purchased last weekend along with the ones I already had on hand, I jumped in to make my 'royal wedding' hat. No, I'm not holding my breath for an invitation. This hat is to wear to my friend Duane's Royal Wedding Viewing Party and Tea on the day of the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Deciding on the colors I wanted to use was the hardest part.

I like autumnal colors but this is a Spring wedding so I lightened up by going with tan felt to cover the body of the fascinator and adding some lighter cream-colored feathers and creamy beads with a touch of peach. I also added a bit of green. Among the items I had on hand after searching through odd bits of jewelry, I discovered an enamel green on gold 'crown' earring missing it's partner which I thought would like nice. Here it is for a closer view.

I did end up gluing 2 combs to the back of my hat due to my hair being very fine.  After trying the hat on with just one comb, I realized I needed 2 in order to make sure that it was secure so, thanks to my good old glue gun, I have 2 combs on the back and it stays in place much better now.   There were 2 sites in particular that I found very helpful with instructions on making a fascinator.  This site covers the basics and this site has a video demonstrating how to make one with items you may have on hand.

Here's another photo of the hat against a green background. The feathers show up a little better here. I didn't want to wear a big hat so my finished fascinator measures approx. 8 inches wide (that includes going to the tip of the large cream feather) by approx. 6.25 inches high (once again, that includes measuring to the top of the highest feather).

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Iambik releases second Literary/Fiction collection!

I'm happy to write that my first book recorded for Iambik audiobooks was released today as part of their second Lit/Fic collection of twelve new titles.
As with the first collection, you can purchase titles separately or the entire package for a discounted price.

These are the new titles: A Santo in the Image of Cristóbal García by Rick Collignon, Alcestis by Katharine Beutner, Kahn & Engelmann by Hans Eichner, Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod, Madewell Brown by Rick Collignon, Migration Songs by Anna Quon, One Vacant Chair by Joe Coomer, Perdido by Rick Collignon, Pulpy and Midge by Jessica Westhead, The Cry of The Sloth by Sam Savage, The Failure by James Greer, and The Journal of Antonio Montoya by Rick Collignon. All four of the Guadalupe books by Rick Collignan are also available as a set in the Complete Guadalupe Series.

I narrated One Vacant Chair by Joe Coomer with the help of a wonderful proof-listener, Betsie Bush.  You can listen to the entire first chapter here. I really enjoyed reading this book. Joe Coomer is a terrific writer and knows how to tell a story with unforgettable characters.
Remember, you can hear the complete first chapter of any book that Iambik sells on it's site, so come by and give us a listen!

Right now if you use the code “our-favorite-customers” you’ll get a 25% discount on any purchase until the end of April.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lunch and shopping for hat supplies...

I played hooky from recording today and met my friend, Barbara, for lunch at a new Cuban restaurant, La Cubanita Cafe. It serves food cafeteria style.
We both had chicken and yellow rice and Barb also bought a deviled crab for later. Pretty good for a cafeteria. Not as good as Las Palmas further north but still worth the visit.

Then I went shopping for hat supplies for Duane's Royal Wedding Viewing Party and Tea. After going to Michael's and Jo-Ann Fabrics, I think I have everything I'll need. I'll post a pic here when I've finished it. I thought I'd be able to buy the 'base' to make a fascinator hat like the one pictured on my blog in an earlier post. Unfortunately, neither place carried the piece that attaches (via hidden combs) to your head. HOWEVER, I stumbled across a substitute while trolling the aisles in Jo-Ann's. It's basically, well, a fake 'boob' or 'enhancer'. Someone had opened a package and I noticed they're shaped just like the fascinator bases I've seen.
These things are called Bra cups and when I tried one on the top/side of my head, it was a perfect fit. Of course there are two in the package and I only have one head so I may offer the other one to a friend if they plan to make the same style. I plan to cover mine in either brown or tan felt before I embellish it. Apparently, my head is a C/D cup size. I can already hear the smart-ass remarks from my friends...

I also bought some feathers of various sizes and colors along with strands of beads.

With items I already have in my 'craft' box, I hope I can come up with something wearable. I think I'm going to have to look at a LOT more pictures of these hats first.

After my little afternoon jaunt, which gave my voice a break, I need to get back to editing my Iambik files before continuing to record. Tomorrow is wide open...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Iambik and LibriVox status reports

I had to wait until Tuesday last week to record the last section of One Vacant Chair for my first Iambik audiobook, due to the lines of thunderstorms. It's a good thing that I made time as soon as possible because by the time Thursday arrived, the storms and tornadoes were much worse than Monday.

Once I finally finished recording, I spent almost 3 hours editing which involves noise-cleaning (for background noise), amplifying via Dynamic Range Compression and, finally, painstakingly listening for any mouth sounds (tongue clicks, breathing, etc.) and eliminating them. The last procedure makes me feel like some kind of cyber-surgeon. Most mouth noises actually show up as tiny spikes on the file so I can spot them but the breathing noises don't work that way.

One thing I haven't figured out how to do is to record while not breathing.

I use a device called a 'pop filter' in front of my microphone but I honestly don't believe it helps much.
My mic is simply too sensitive. It picks up everything. The pop filter is supposed to keep certain sounds from getting through to the mic, particularly 'p' sounds and other letters that tend to cause a 'pop' sound when speaking. I have researched this some and a number of audio engineers who edit sound for singers have threads up about how to handle this. Some use different types of software but many admitted that good old-fashioned 'surgical' removal is still sometimes the only way. I'm getting pretty good with my surgical mouse.

One Vacant Chair is now being processed for the next Literary Fiction batch of books. Unless there's anything I need to re-record, I'm now finished with this book. It's well-written with a great story and memorable characters. I'll post here when the next Lit/Fic group is scheduled to be released.

In the mean time, I'm still proof-listening for another narrator who is recording a non-fiction children's book called How to do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself by Robert Paul Smith.

The reader is doing a terrific job. There are illustrations which will be available for download with the audiobook when its completed.

I've just begun work on my second book for Iambik called With or Without You by Lauren Sanders.
This is another book that will end up under the Literary Fiction genre. I finished the first section yesterday and I'll continue this week as soon as I get the OK for my sound check.

On LibriVox, I've continued recording the weekly poem which I can always make time to read. I'm also still plugging away on my current solo Three Girls in a Flat but it's had to take a backseat recently in order to meet deadlines on Iambik. Most of the chapters are pretty short so I hope to squeeze them in when I can. Particularly since I already have my eye on my next solo for LV...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Yard sales for causes

Our buddy, Randy, had a yard sale today with his parents at their house so Linda and I stopped by in the morning.

Randy has a huge collection of vinyl records dating back to the '70's and he's decided to part with most of them.
The money is going to a fund to help cover expenses for a girl who was brutally attacked several years ago just outside a branch of the public library.  This girl was beaten, raped and left for dead when she stopped by the library to return books in the book-drop. This happened in 2008 and she was left unable to speak, see or use her arms or legs or sit up without assistance. She was a model student with a bright future ahead of her. Her rehabilitation and every day care could cause her to end up in a nursing home since she's about to turn 21. Many people in the community are reaching out to help so that she can remain in her home. Randy has a huge heart and it's like him to do something like this.  He has some great records, too.  He's decided that he's going to auction some of the best ones so we can all have a chance to grab a treasure and, hopefully, keep this young woman's life from becoming any more difficult than the challenges she already faces every day.

We also stopped at an enormous church sale where they had tons of DVDs, CDs, furniture, collectibles and a little bit of everything. There were approximately 50 vendors. The proceeds were going to a clinic in Haiti where disease outbreaks have become an enormous health concern since last year's devastating earthquake. I picked up some DVDs for $2 a pop and Linda found a tres chic hat. She plans to 'embellish' it for our friend Duane's Royal Wedding Viewing Party and Tea this month. I think I'm going to attempt to make a hat, maybe something like a fascinator.

This should be a fun and very girly party although we've invited some of our guy friends, too. More on this in a future post.