There’s a chill in the air, so let’s knit!

I love to knit and crochet year-round, but when the temperatures drop and leaves crackle under my feet, I’m especially motivated to examine my stash for the perfect worsted weight yarn to turn into hats, scarves, and socks. Once again, I have too many projects on needles, and it’s probably a good thing Bloomington still doesn’t have a yarn shop to tempt me with luscious textures and colors. But the stash isn’t diminishing as fast as I would like, in part because the Bloomington Hospital’s volunteer coordinator provides skeins for the Yarn Club (where I knit every two weeks in the company of members pictured below).

Knit in Public

Thankfully, I haven’t had reasons to spend much time at the hospital. As I walk its hallways, I find myself immersed in a completely different world than the one I normally inhabit, one where people have different priorities and lingo. Perhaps I would feel more “at home” if I watched more television dramas set in hospitals. The hospital may be a place of joy for those celebrating the birth of a child or a loved one’s recovery from a serious illness, but it also can be a stressful, scary, and overwhelming place for others.  Maybe that’s why it’s so satisfying to join other members of the Yarn Club in turning colorful skeins of yarn into shawls, lap blankets, and hats for patients in need of a little comfort.

Evidently, it’s a custom to have employees do a ceremonial signing of the last I-beam before it is put in place in a new building. Bloomington is building a new hospital, and recently this beam was in the hospital lobby for staff to sign. Since this happened on a day when the Yarn Club met, we volunteers were honored when they invited us to sign it too. Soon after, it was hoisted into place. It’s kind of neat having this small connection to the new building.

Ply Fiber Arts

Another reason my stash isn’t diminishing as fast as I would like is because I recently had a birthday and was the recipient of some very lovely yarn. Sam, who runs my favorite yarn store, Ply Fiber Arts, in Richmond, Indiana, filled this lovely West African basket with  Medina yarn and a mosaic shawl pattern. I told myself I couldn’t start it until I finished several other projects, one of which is a set of four placemats (the pattern can be found at Rebecca Langford’s great website,


I’m happy to report that I started the fourth one last evening, and they are turning out well. But true confessions are in order–I also started the mosaic shawl, and it’s going to be beautiful!

One last yarn-related update. If you drive through Bloomington’s downtown, you’ll see many trees covered with knitted and crocheted sweaters. This is part of the “Wrapped in Love” project to benefit Middleway House, a local resource that “provides meaningful alternatives to living with violence.” I took part in making Granny squares for one of the tree sweaters several years ago, and it warms my heart to see it still in use for a third season.  Here’s hoping that you also find things to do this fall that warm your heart, along with the hearts of others.



Posted in Bloomington, Indiana, crafts, Crochet and Crocheting, Knitting, Knitting Stores, music

Top Ten Highlights of Summer 2019

In homage to David Letterman’s Top Ten lists, I’ve created one for my summer 2019. It’s really difficult to limit the list to only ten things, and of course this is my list of top ten things. It’s a bit of a challenge to rank order them, but here goes.

10. Visiting the Nomad Yarn Truck, Participating in the Bloomington Hospital’s Yarn Club

Nomad Yarn truck

Bloomington is currently without a yarn shop, which is probably a good thing for me because I have plenty of yarn in my stash. But I do love visiting yarn shops to savor the colors and textures, and to get ideas for new projects. Of course, I usually succumb to a few skeins of something I can’t live without. So it was a joy when the Nomad Yarn Truck parked on the town square.  The owners used to have a yarn shop in Plainfield, but now they’re  on the road with skeins and skeins of beautiful fibers. What a novel idea!

img_5329-2.jpgThe second part of #10 on the top ten list is the Bloomington Hospital’s Yarn Club. A group of women meet every two weeks to knit and crochet items (primarily shawls and lap blankets) for the compassion cart. I really enjoy getting together with these women and it’s nice to know there’s a use for the things we’re making.


9. Making Music with Michigan friends and attending the World Youth Orchestra Concert at Interlochen Music Camp with Dorothy Kunkel

We no longer travel light, not since we started playing dulcimers, flute, and French horn. But I don’t mind making room for our instruments in the car when we have the opportunity to brighten the day for Margy’s Mom by playing “You are my Sunshine.”  It was also great to visit the Interlochen Arts camp with Dorothy Kunkel, our conductor and the reason we are playing the flute and French horn.

8. Flute Soiree

Flute Soiree

A flute workshop and soiree with Leighann Daihl Ragusa is becoming a tradition for us. After performing my piano solo, I enjoyed listening to the flutes perform. I’m constantly amazed at the progress Deb is making after playing flute for only three years.

7. The Bloomington Fourth of July Parade


Our Bloomington Community Band had a fine location on the courthouse square for watching the 4th of July parade. There’s red, white, and blue everywhere you look. I love seeing the Boy Scouts, twirlers, bands, groups representing various organizations and causes, and even the fire trucks!

6. Attending the Monroe County Fair

For the first time in many years, we didn’t get to the state fair, but we had a great time at the Monroe County Fair. I had no idea the “Dressed Sheep” competition involved costumes on the children and sheep involved. And it’s always fun to eat fair food with friends.

5. Playing with the Bloomington Community Band and Bloomington Brass Band


Belonging to a band is a lot of fun. Work too, but it’s a great way to meet other people who enjoy making music, and I’d like to think our audiences enjoy hearing us. It’s been a lot of fun performing with both bands this summer at parks, farmers’ markets, festivals, retirement communities, and more. And the year is not over–we have many concerts remaining between now and Christmas!

4. Attending the Barn Theatre with friends

Group at the Barn

I’ve written about the Barn Theatre in a previous blog entry, but the experience of going there with a group of friends rates high on my top ten list! This year we saw “Big,” and stayed for the after show in The Shed.  Fun!

3. Attending my oldest great nephew’s graduation party, and meeting my youngest great nephew

Since my mother passed away, I don’t see my family as often as I would like, so it was great to join in the celebration for my oldest great nephew’s graduation from high school and to meet my youngest great nephew for the first time.

2. Touring Salzburg, Vienna, and Budapest with In Mozart’s Footsteps


I’ve also blogged about the great trip we took to Salzburg, Vienna, and Budapest with Professor David Nelson. We’ve been listening to and playing Mozart ever since our return!

1. Deb’s birthday concert/party, where Thomas hit the High Note

Deb knows how to celebrate a milestone!  Invite friends and family, and have the Bach-Beethoven Experience musicians play a house concert. And the best surprise of all was when Thomas sang Queen’s “Bicycle Race” for the woman who loves riding her bike.

It’s been a great summer, and I hope yours has been too!

Posted in Bloomington, Indiana, Interlochen, Knitting Stores, Michigan, music, Travel and Tourism

Transforming a Switchyard into a Park


img_4049New York City’s Central Park opened 143 years ago, in 1876. I never fully appreciated what it took to construct Central Park, which occupies 840 acres in the center of Manhattan, until I started watching the construction of Bloomington Indiana’s Switchyard Park. A fraction of Central Park’s approximately 65 acres, it is being constructed on the site of the former McDoel Railroad Switchyard, a regional hub from 1892 until 2000. Ground was broken for the aptly named Switchyard Park in May 2018, and final completion is set for May 2020.

I cannot begin to summarize the steps it’s taking to create Bloomington’s newest park. As a former railroad switchyard, the grounds had to be cleared of hazardous materials/waste. Trees were removed, soil and debris hauled away, and clean dirt hauled to the site.  At times it looked like the surface of the moon.

For much of the summer, the worksite has resembled an anthill, with workers and machinery tacking multiple projects simultaneously. They’ve devoted many hours to infrastructure, with stone slingers and heavy equipment in constant motion.

Many of the workers are men, but on occasion we’ve seen women operating some of the machinery.

Water management

In addition to a massive pavillion, the city’s constructing a spacious performance stage, on which our very own Bloomington Community Band will perform November 3. By then I hope the Grand Lawn, which is supposed to provide seating for 5,000 or more people, has been sodded!

Band Shell

Concrete has been poured for a large skate park. The first picture was taken last spring.skate park under construction

And this picture was taken in early September. It’s sure to be a busy place.

Skate park

The park is going to feature much more, including courts for basketball, pickleball and bocce ball courts, fitness stations, raised garden beds, a splash park, a dog park, a playground, and the B-Line Trail.  Plans call for planting at least 600 trees and 2,000 seedlings, so the park’s appearance will continue to change in the years ahead.

Map of Park

There’s still much work to do, and the park’s landscape will change a lot in the coming months. Why not take a walk on the B-Line trail and check it out for yourself!















Posted in Bloomington, Indiana, Parks and Recreation

Michigan Sojourn

While growing up in northwest Ohio, I never thought much about Michigan. If pressed, I knew it was home to Detroit, Greenfield Village, and Michigan State.  My knowledge of Michigan expanded over time as I was introduced to the University of Michigan’s  wonderful research library and Ann Arbor’s bookstores. But it wasn’t until I started visiting friends in Kalamazoo and Petoskey that I realized why so many people have, over the years, summered in the Wolverine state.

Group at the Barn

This is the third summer we’ve gone to the Barn Theatre, in Augusta, which is Michigan’s oldest summer stock theater company.  This year we joined friends for a production of “Big, the Musical,” then stayed for the after show in the Shed. The young actors and actresses who put on these performances are passionate about theater, even though it means they must do everything, from staffing the parking lot to dipping the ice cream. Their energy is infectious, and we loved our time there.

On Saturday morning, outdoor Kalamazoo beckoned us with it’s fresh air and lush green grass and trees. What a great place to walk and ride. And, while in nearby Richland, my friend Yolande arranged for me to have a tour of the public library, which has its roots in the formation of a Ladies Library Association in 1880. Our guide’s enthusiasm matched the library’s obvious vitality and the woodwork was beautiful.

Thunderstorms and high winds kept us inside for the remainder of the day, but we had no problem occupying ourselves with spirited games of ping pong and music making.

From Kalamazoo we traveled on to Interlochen, home to the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp. Dorothy Kunkel, our band conductor when we are in Florida, spends her summers nearby, so she met us for a tour of the Camp and an evening concert.  Dorothy has a long history at Interlochen, first arriving there from Nebraska in the early 1950s. I believe she’s sitting in the second row back, second person from the right (with a big smile on her face).

Dorothys first season at Interlochen

Dorothy spent many years conducting there and at the Blue Lake Music Camp, and it was a treat to see the camp, with its practice huts, lesson cottages, and lakeside views through her eyes. She’s still wearing the same broad smile!

The evening concert of the World Youth Orchestra was delightful. The words stenciled on the wall behind the musicians remind us that music is indeed a powerful and beautiful language, one that plays an important role in our world.

World Youth Orchestra

We had beautiful weather for our next stop, Crooked Lake, a little north of Petoskey. It was fun spending time on the lake with our friend Margie, and learning about the area’s history.

And of course, we made time for knitting and making music with our friend Nancy.

Knitting with NancyWe enjoyed playing an impromptu concert for our friend Margie’s Mom, who has spent many summers on the lake. We loved it when she sang along to songs like “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “You are My Sunshine.”


To top off our visit, we attended a lecture at the historic Bay View Association given by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of What the Eyes Don’t See. This crusading pediatrician shed a lot of light on the the Flint water crisis and the importance of caring about the quality of our drinking water.

Michigan has a lot to offer, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the wonderful yarn shops I visited along the way, Knitology (Traverse City), the Dutch Oven Yarn Shop (Alanson), and as we neared home, a brief stop at Broad Ripple Knits in Indianapolis.  The fun thing about the Dutch Oven Yarn Shop is it’s proximity to a bakery–a knitter can browse to her heart’s content while friends enjoy coffee and pastry. Of course making these stops means that I have more projects to complete, so I’d better stop writing and pick up my needles!


Posted in Dulcimer music and groups, friendship, Interlochen, Knitting, Knitting Stores, Michigan, music, theater

Budapest and the not-so-blue Danube

Castle Hill-Deb and JO

Our Music Lovers tour included several days and nights in Budapest. To be honest, before this trip, I knew very little about Budapest and wasn’t too keen on going there. But I’m so glad we did!  Let me see if I can show you why.

Four of us traveled with our guide, David, by train to Budapest. Upon arriving at the train station, we went out to a line of cabs. The first refused to take us to the hotel because David told them he wanted to pay in Hungarian forints “on the meter” instead of the flat rate quote of 40 Euros.  Fortunately, a cheery driver at the back of the line stowed us and all our luggage in his SUV and away we went…on the meter.

Let me preface the rest of my comments with a caveat…while in Budapest we saw primarily tourist sites, and therefore I can’t give a full impression of the city.  For example, in the areas visited most frequently by tourists, the city looks clean and modern (or revitalized), but in other areas once-beautiful buildings look like they need a good powerwashing. Architecture from the glory days of the Austro-Hungarian empire is similar that that of Vienna, while buildings erected prior to the end of communist rule in 1989, are more utilitarian in style.  The view below on the left is from our hotel room, and the view on the right was taken out of a bus window as we passed people protesting the government’s recent crackdown on academic freedom and science/research institutes.

Early Sunday morning we left our hotel, which was on the Pest side of the river, for a walk. As we approached the Danube, we noticed a number of cruise ships and smaller tour boats.  Many cruises use Budapest as a point of departure or as a terminus. Sadly, a collision between a Danube tour boat and a cruise ship occurred shortly before our arrival in the city, with a number of fatalities.

Castle Hill-View of Pest 3

One cannot help but admire the Chain Bridge, built in 1849 to link Buda and Pest by spanning the Danube. We crossed it by bus and foot, enjoying the views in every direction.

Danube-Chain Bridge 1

Soon we approached the Parliament, which sits in Kossuth Square. Because it was early Sunday morning, the area was deserted except for guards. Neo-Gothic in style, the Hungarian Parliament is where the National Assembly meets, and it’s the third largest Parliament building in the world.

Parliament 5

Around it one finds many sculptures and memorials, among them, the Kossuth Memorial (pictured behind the poppies) featuring Lajos Kossuth (center), the leader of Hungary’s 1848 revolution. I’m seated by a statue of Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef (1905-37), overlooking the Danube, and the third picture is of a memorial to commemorate the people’s uprising in 1956.

The nearby Shoes on the Danube was the most moving memorial we saw on this trip. Sixty pairs of men’s, women’s, and children’s shoes, cast in iron and set in concrete along the embankment, look as though people just took them off. This memorial is for Hungarian Jews shot here in the winter of 1944-45 by members of the Arrow Cross Party. To read more about this horrific event, go to

While in Budapest, we took a guided minivan tour with Gregory, who possessed an excellent knowledge of world history. He took us to the standard sights, including Heroes Square, which was opened in 1896 to commemorate Hungary’s millenium, and across the Danube to Buda.

Buda was more crowded with tourists eager to see the Matthias Church, the statue of St. Stephen, Castle Hill, and the Fisherman’s Bastion. As you can see, we had a beautiful day for our touring, but there was rain in those clouds!

Gregory also took us to one of his favorite spots, the garden of philosophy, on Gellert Hill. Sculpted by Nandor Wagner, the garden depicts an inner circle of the founders of five world religions: Abraham, Jesus, Buddha, Laozi, and Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten. An outer circle consists of Mahatma Gandhi, Daruma Daishi (also known as Bodhidharma), and Saint Francis. What a peaceful and inspiring place away from hordes of tourists.

Once we became familiar with the city, we sampled its musical heritage by visiting two excellent museums. One morning we traveled by subway (which had the most beautiful woodwork and tile, a remnant of the 1896 millennial celebration) to the apartment where composer Ferenc (Franz) Liszt (1811-1886) spent the final years of his life.

When we walked in, it felt like he might be in the next room. I especially loved his composing desk–what a great idea!

Another excellent museum, one whose existence might be in jeopardy due to less support for research institutes under the current government, is the Museum of Music History. Our very knowledgeable guide gave us a thorough tour despite not knowing if he would have a job the next week. The collection is amazing–instruments of all kinds, displays of how instruments are made, and much more.

Naturally, we also enjoyed Hungarian musical performances, including an evening of Hungarian folk music and dance. I learned about a Hungarian instrument known as the cimbalom, which reminds me a lot of a Hammer dulcimer. The seated man in the center is playing one.

We also enjoyed a fantastic performance by the Hungarian State Opera of Puccini’s Il Trittico. Since it was near the end of our tour, we agreed that if any one of us was too tired, we would leave after the first act…but the opera was so good we remained for all three.

I can’t leave Budapest without mentioning that I loved the food, especially the cabbage rolls. For our final evening, we dined along the Danube, where we were serenaded by musicians…a lovely ending to a very memorable trip!

Food-Restaurant Musician

Posted in Budapest, museums, music, Travel and Tourism

More to see in Vienna

Cemetery-Central-Jo and Deb at flower stand 2

We found Vienna easy to navigate, thanks to tips from our guide, a good map, and an excellent public transportation system. Whether traveling by U-Bahn or Tram, the system proved efficient and comfortable.

One of our destinations was the Vienna Central Cemetery, which was far from the city center when it opened in 1874. After stopping at a flower stand, we followed a path to the graves of Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert (both originally buried elsewhere and moved here in 1888), Johannes Brahms, Johann Strauss, and Arnold Schoenberg, among others. Each stone captures the essence of its composer’s personality. For example, Beethoven’s is bold with dark lettering, Brahms is portrayed looking very scholarly, and Schoenberg’s is a unique cube standing on one corner.

Vienna Central Cemetery did not exist when Mozart died in December 1791. Instead, after a hasty funeral, his body was transported to St. Marx Cemetery and buried in an unmarked grave, a common practice at the time.  As a result, no one knows the exact location of Mozart’s grave, however, there is a very nice monument. People were interred in this cemetery from 1784-1874, and on the day we visited it felt quite peaceful, as if one was visiting a forest, not a well-manicured garden.

Cemetery-Marx-Mozart grave with flowers

With all of our walking, we worked up quite an appetite, which we often satisfied with some Viennese sweet treats. We discovered that the Viennese love ice cream as well as apple strudel. It all was delicious!

When I travel, I always try to visit yarn shops. The shopkeeper in this wool store told me my German was “besser” than her English. Somehow we managed a transaction. Before we left home, our flute and piano teacher told us about a wonderful music store in Vienna, so we visited Doblinger’s and were not disappointed (see the look on Deb’s face as she examines books in the flute music section).

Near the end of our time in Vienna, we took the U-Bahn to Schoenbrunn Palace with our friend Barbara. The tickets for viewing the palace were sold out, but we had a great time walking the gardens and admiring the views.

We all climbed uphill to the Gloriette plaza for lovely views, but Deb went all the way to the top of the building for even more breathtaking (and windy) scenery. The first picture is the path to the Gloriette, and the other two are views taken from the top of the building.

We loved our time in Vienna, but now it’s time to board another train…this time to Budapest!

A-on the way to Budapest



Posted in music, Travel, Vienna

On to Vienna

St Stephens A

Soon after our arrival in Vienna, we followed our tour leader to the U-Bahn (underground railroad) and rode to the center of Vienna.  St. Stephens Platz was quite busy when we emerged at street level, but our eyes immediately went to St. Stephens Cathedral, completed in the 12th century. The workmanship, especially the stone carving, is stunning. Unfortunately, the cathedral’s roof suffered significant damage in April 1945 when it was hit by 22-ton bombs. This is memorialized today by paper mache rocks hanging from the ceiling (middle picture).

The next morning we returned to central Vienna in light rain for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Vienna State Opera. The building was completed in 1869, and also suffered massive bombing damage in the spring of 1945. Restoration in the ensuing years led to its reopening in 1955. Today the building is resplendant, and the Vienna State Opera is one of the leading opera companies in the world.

Workers were busy setting up for the evening’s premier of the Richard Strauss opera, Die Frau Ohne Schatten (The Woman Without a Shadow), which was sold out. Fortunately for us, it was simulcast on a large outdoor screen. We returned that evening and sat outside with several hundred others to watch the opera, sung in German with German subtitles.I enjoyed seeing how much college German I remembered. Not enough!

While in Vienna we heard a number of wonderful performances, including a pianist performing Bach’s Goldberg Variations, violinist Joshua Bell accompanied by the Salzberg Camarata Orchestra, Orchestra 1756 performing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in St. Charles Church, a performance of Die Fledermaus at the Volksoper Vienna, and the Vienna Mozart Orchestra, which concluded its performance with a lovely rendition of The Blue Danube Waltz, and the rousing Radetzky March, to which we all clapped along. Every aspect of each performance was excellent, from the musicians to the setting to the music!

We also strolled Karntner Strasser, the most famous shopping street in central Vienna, where we saw many tourists, the Black Plague monument, and the famous Demel’s, where diners sat enjoying sachertorte.

I loved being in Vienna for the better part of a week so we could spend lots of time exploring the city by foot. We grew familiar with the buildings of the Hofburg Palace complex (the former imperial palace of the Hapsburg dynasty), which we passed by daily.

Across the way stood the Volksgarten, with beautiful roses in full bloom.

We also passed by the “Lest We Forget” Holocaust survivors exhibition, which was vandalized during our time in Vienna. We were impressed by the many young guardians who turned out to repair the portraits and stand vigil with them in the evenings and overnight.

Vienna has many fine museums, of which we visited the Secession Building to see the work of Gustav Klimt, the Leopold Museum for an excellent exhibit on Vienna in 1900, and the Haydn House, composer Joseph Haydn’s home during his final years.

But my favorite was the Beethoven museum in Heiligenstadt. Residents of Vienna used to leave the city in the summer to avoid the heat,  and some of them, including Beethoven, sought refuge in Heiligenstadt. We could picture Beethoven walking in nature, drawing inspiration for his symphonies.

Beethoven Statue-Heiligenstadt 1

The museum is located in one of the buildings where Beethoven resided. It was peaceful, quiet, and if you stood alone in the interior courtyard, you could imagine him inside one of the apartments.

Heiligenstadt 21

The exhibits do an excellent job of portraying the composer’s despair over his increasing deafness even as he continued to compose masterful music. We especially appreciated the interactive nature of the museum, which gave us an even deeper appreciation for Beethoven’s hearing loss.

There’s more to tell about Vienna, in my next blog entry.

Posted in music, Travel and Tourism, Vienna