Niijima before camp

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You know I love Niijima, don't you? We have been there so many times to enjoy living a slow life in nature. I've lost count. 10? 12? There is something magical about the island that brings us back again and again. 

Guru-guru Camp, our annual 2 week camping/hooping trip, is coming up again during Golden Week and we are scheduled to depart for Niijima on April 24th laden with tents and hula hoops.

So of course, in the midst of preparations for that event, I snuck down to Niijima with one of my dearest friends and her family visiting from Australia. We toured around on bicycles (and I didn't hate it), soaked in the onsen, watched the waves, picnicked at camp, made glasses, and generally enjoyed ourselves enormously. 

It was hard to return to the city, even knowing that in a week, I'll be back! Between now and then, I have several days of tasks to catch up on, including all the camp packing, launching this year's WHD Dance tutorials and preparing a new project with Heather. I'll be frantic. It was worth it.

Spring Sketching

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I took my watercolors to the park today and although the output isn't anything special, it was glorious to be out in the fresh air focussing my attention on the environment for a few minutes. I am reminded how much I enjoy this form of meditation. More drawing...

Roller Coaster Weather

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Almost every day last week, I discussed the weather forecast with Heather. 

It was making unpleasant predictions for her hanami party on Sunday. It declared High: 11 - too chilly for infants to enjoy a picnic - and each day brought new doomsaying of rain with varying percentages of chance. At one point it told her it would snow and the low was going to be 1. In the end, the forecast was too wild for babies under blossoms and she cancelled the party. 

We went to visit anyway, walking through the park and riding a roller coaster, playing a private concert on the ferris wheel. Then the wind blew, clouds rolled in, and we took shelter from the HAIL and SNOW in an arcade. We played whack-a-mole and Tod bought us popcorn and found me a cotton candy machine and I made a fluffy ball of sugar that we all nibbled as we walked back through the park after the crazy storm had passed.

Hanami 2014

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Rob & I get together for a hanami lunch in the Ayoama Bochi every year. Today was the day. It was beautifully mild and our hilltop picnic spot was eye-level with the blossoms. We were showered with petal snow as the winds blew clouds in. The rains begin tonight, so I think Tokyo's hanami season is about to end.

It was Primal vs Vegetarian this year and I must say that Rob's homemade pork coconut curry and fresh salad beat my peanut butter sandwich and carrot sticks by a mile.

The Frolicaholics Play Hoop Lounge

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Memorable birthday! Instead of going out to dinner or pigging out on cake, Tod & I played a show at Hoop Lounge. We were in a terrific line-up of acts that included a diablo player, a performance artist, and a Cirque du Soleil dancer/clown. Backstage was warm and chatty as we got to know one another.

I performed on my birthday because I wanted to promote our upcoming Guru-guru Camp activities. We sang the song that we'll use in the video Rob is making at camp. Stars is one of my favorite Sophie Madeleine songs. I love the delicate sound of Tod's toy xylophone in this one.

My horrible stage fright wasn't so horrible this time, though you will note a look of relief on my face after we finish. At least there is no terror on my face while we are playing. I am feeling more confident about making music and that helps keep the worst of the jitters at bay.

A Hoop Lounge performance isn't right without a little hooping in the act, so I combined skills to sing, play and hoop all at once. It is not as easy as walking and chewing gum at the same time; I've been trying and failing at this for months. It felt triumphant to get it working here. This Roger Miller song was perfect for some new Tokyo-specific lyrics, too. And an elephant reference...

My friends, Nina and Zio

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This is Zio, who I helped welcome to the world in December.  He is growing big and healthy. I just got to feed him a bottle for the first time yesterday. Hard to believe he is already three months old. He smiles when he sees me; I wonder if he remembers my voice from the delivery room?

This is Nina. She starts first grade in a couple of weeks. I've know her about half her life. She is a skilled hooper and led her mother and I through some fun hoop combos in the back yard. I see a future hoop teacher...

Happy Equinox

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We celebrated the equinox with a party featuring way too much food, just enough drink, so many friends, and a musical theme.

After creating our own handmade musical instruments from odds and ends, Huw conducted us in an improvised concert. Paul made an amazing tuned instrument from rubber bands and a tea tin. Shinji's beer can bell was a rattly delight. We lost a salad server to the drum. Tod filled the emptied wine bottles with water for a harp. There were attempts at guitars and an abundance of percussive blocks, shakers and Yuka's most versatile "ball bearings in a can topped with copper sheeting."

I think we must all be ageing. The party broke up by ten...might be a first. 

Butterfly: Country Roads

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Here's the video that Swinky, Jesse, and the Frolicaholics made earlier this week in our living room for The Butterfly Project.

Swinky will be appearing on a popular Japanese tv show later this month and John Denver's "Country Roads," which is probably the most famous English language song in Japan, is her way of saying hello to all her new fans. Be sure to visit Butterfly Swinky to watch more Butterflies or get info on her upcoming gigs. 

The Zous were thrilled to stand in frame with Swinky. They think she is very beautiful. They are right and I am sure all her fans will agree.

Butterfly Project Session

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Last night, Tod & I were inducted into the Butterfly Project, Swinky's collection of casual music videos.

Jesse brought a ton of equipment from their studio and while I made us some dinner, Jesse set up a six-mic-four-camera studio in our living room, including my special double mic stand kludged together with chopsticks and hoop tape.

Maybe these Butterflies aren't so casual after all?

It was the first time the four of us had played and sung together. There was much laughter over bad jokes and our numerous mistakes. We rehearsed for a hour or so, then ate dinner sitting in the empty places between cables. 

We recorded seven takes before we had something all of us agreed was good. But as Jesse checked the files and we took apart the equipment, he discovered a problem. The audio recorder failed mysteriously. There were no files at all on its card. So we scrambled to fix the device and put the studio back together before it got too late and the neighbours complained. (It was 11 pm before we finished, but nobody said anything, whew!) We did three more recordings and got a final take that included mistakes and laughter - a perfect representation of the evening. 

Now Jesse gets to edit all the video and audio recordings into something that looks like we just walked into the room and started playing.

The video will be up on the Butterfly Project page by the end of the month. It was so much fun to do. I hope we'll get to play with Swinky and Jesse again soon.

Frolicaholics: Radioactivity

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A couple of weeks back on the ukulele subReddit, there was a challenge to cover a Kraftwerk song. Electronic music on the ukulele, really? I was intrigued and Tod was interested, too, so we decided to make it a Frolciaholics project. We spent two weeks selecting a song, breaking it down into bits, learning to play it. We finished the filming and editing today.

The song we covered is Radioactivity, exceptionally apropos as we near the 3rd anniversary of the nuclear disaster here in Japan. We used almost all of our instruments: ukulele, melodica, xylophone and also the stylophone, tenori-on and a wooden frog that didn't make the final cut.

The tenori-on provides the bass and drums. We played the other instruments over the onslaught of 16th notes. It was a good challenge (aka almost impossible) to stay rigidly on the beat. You'll see from my grim expression that I was really focussed on getting it right! You'll hear that I didn't always mange. But I improved throughout the project and what more can a new musician ask for?

Spare a thought today for the many victims of the nuclear disaster. Three years after the meltdown, very little has improved and they need your good wishes.

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