Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall, Soup, and Photography

I know I've been MIA for weeks now, but life has just been so busy that my little blog fell by the wayside. Fall has been lovely, though not nearly as lovely as I was anticipating. As short as Edmonton's fall is, it really is far more beautiful than DC's fall.

Following are two short updates on my life:


1. Here's a recipe for the delicious fall soup I made tonight:

1 shallot
1 butternut squash (cut in half and roasted for about 45 min at 375F)
3-4 baby sweet potatoes (roasted with the squash)
2-3 apples, chopped
4 cups broth
1 tbs ginger, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Let the roasted veggies cool for a little while before finishing the soup. Then chop the shallots and sweat them in some oil at the bottom of your soup pot. Add the broth and the rest of the ingredients. Cook on low for about 30-45 min. Blend. Eat!

So yummy and a lovely shade of orange!


2. I bought a new camera, and I've been busily photographing, photoshopping, and posting to my flickr page (http://www.flickr.com/photos/talulayu/) Check them out! Comment! I've been having sooo much fun with it all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Fiddling Workshop

Yesterday I went to a fiddling workshop with Folkways artist Tony DeMarco at McGinty's pub in Silver Spring. I was in way over my head, and there were a dozen kids there playing circles around me, but it was still fun and I learned a lot. He does Irish fiddling in the style of the Sligo Indians, which isn't exactly the style I want to learn, but I'm still such a beginner that I learn useful things everywhere I go. And he's a really interesting guy with lots of great stories about the fiddling scene in New York and lots of knowledge about the history of the music.

Shameless plug: His album is great too, check it out on Folkways!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Martin Puryear


Today during my late lunch break I decided to go see the Martin Puryear exhibit at the National Gallery. It was incredible! The brochure calls him "post-minimalist," although the work seemed very minimalist to me, despite being huge pieces. A Flickr search brings up some really great photos of his pieces at a few different galleries.

My favourite piece was Self. It's a monolithic black piece and part of a series examining space and hollowness in his work. I was particularly drawn to this one because it is a solid black wood shape that was built around a armature that was later removed. It's also one of the few that was painted (most are unfinished wood and other materials). So it's a work that is highly refined on the outside, yet its most important feature is completely hidden from onlookers. I love that it is so unknowable, like so many things in life.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Dear Aaron:

Today is the third anniversary of your death. After you died, Chris told me that eventually I would remember the good things and forget the bad things. I still remember the hurt and pain as clear as day, but I can finally remember the good things too, and they are what I prefer to think of now when I remember you.

I remember what an amazing musician you were. You were a fantastic trumpet player; you could scream out those lead lines like heroes you studied so carefully. Not only could you play the instrument well, but you knew all the little idiomatic details of the music you played. I remember how you called yourself "El Gato" after Cat Anderson and signed all your emails EG. And how proud you sounded when you told me the guys on the QEII nicknamed you Cunard Ferguson, a combination of the ship line you were on and Maynard. And oh, I remember when you got that Maynard play-along cassette and had to pull your slide all the way out to play with it because it was so flat. You did it though, and you could get every note.

You inspired me to be a better musician. You told me to play my bari "like a big 'ole black man," and I did. You told me to "blow it hard," and I did. I remember the hours we spent sitting in the living room playing Aebersoldes, you coaxing and coaching the jazz out of me. I got to play with the symphony, you know. I think you would have been proud of that. I don't really play any more, but whenever I listen to jazz I remember you. I think you would like the music that I sing now. It's different from your music, but it's beautiful. It's the sort of music that you can throw yourself into and let everything go. Your favourite hymn isn't in the book, but there are plenty that I think you would love.

I remember the way you looked when you heard something in the music that was especially great. You'd sit back in your chair (the brown and white threadbare one), you'd put your hands out with the fingers splayed, and you'd smile so that I could see that crooked tooth we called "'Ole Chomper." Then you'd get up and rewind it again and again. Whenever I imagine you in my mind it's always in that chair, smiling at the clever line you just heard.

I remember the way you used to read with me. Some of my happiest memories are of times we went out for coffee or lunch with our books and magazines and sat together and read. Except we spent more time reading to each other and talking about it than actually reading. Whenever I read a Harper's or Atlantic or New Yorker I think of you. You taught me how to really appreciate the words I read, and you taught me how to care about the words I wrote. Before I met you I would write carelessly, but you showed me how to respect the written word, and to cherish it. How to loose myself in it.

I remember how you used to love driving out in the country. You'd tell me about your grandparents and your time spent up in Grande Prairie. We'd reminisce about growing up on the prairies, yet both in different worlds. I remember the time we were driving to band camp and the car broke down. Nobody else could find us because we'd taken a scenic route that day. It was so cold out, and we walked through the snow to a farm house near by. The old woman who answered the door was so generous, and called her friends at the Morinville towing company to come get us. While we waited she made us instant coffee, and you (who loved your coffee even more than I do) drank it thankfully. And when we left, I remember you said, "did you see the shotgun by the door? Good thing she didn't answer the door with that."

I remember the little boy inside of you. The one who became giddy at the sight of trains and airplanes. The one who got engrossed in stories, books and games about military history. Your handsome face would light up if we got stopped at a train crossing, and we'd sit and count the cars as they passed. You'd tell me how the train worked, and what was probably being carried in all the freight cars. I remember the year I bought you a flight in a Cessna 4-seater for your birthday. I know it wasn't your first time up in one of those, but we sure had a great time flying all around the city for an hour.

I remember the day you died. I was at work and my mom called to tell me. She picked me up and we went and spent the afternoon with your family. I hadn't seen them in a long time, and we just prayed and hugged and sat and cried together. I was in shock for a long time. Everything I did felt absurd for months afterwards. I think you would appreciate this: On your death certificate, under place of death there's just a longitude and latitude listing. I've always thought that was appropriate.

Your funeral was one of the hardest days of my life. I bought a new outfit and I styled my hair. I remember that for some reason it was very important to me that I look my best that day. I didn't visit you at the funeral home because I decided I didn't want to see you that way; I want to keep remembering you as alive and warm, not cold and lifeless. When they brought in your coffin my heart broke. I hadn't seen you in a long time, and the thought that the man I loved, and shared my life with, and whom I thought I would share my whole future with was only inches away on the other side of some thin wood made me feel as though my body was being torn apart. At the interment I didn't want to leave. I sat alone with you for a long time, but I could see that the workers wanted to finish their job and go home, so eventually I tore myself away. I sure hope they're all right and you're up in heaven now.

I remember our wedding day. It was one of my happiest days, and is one my most cherished memories. When I walked down the aisle and saw you looking at me with such adoration I felt like a princess. I felt like everything would be okay. Better than okay even. We were so in love, and you challenged me and made me a better person. I don't believe that I made the wrong choice in marrying you, even though it ended so badly. You were brilliant and handsome and warm and generous in spite of all your flaws, and I think we would have been very happy if you had somehow managed to fight off your demons.

Almost every day I catch a glimpse of you from behind out of the corner of my eye. I know it's not really you, but I like to think it is. It comforts me to think that you might be watching me grow and change. I'm stronger now, and more confident. I'm not someone who lets herself be hurt and used by people any more, and I think you'd be proud of me.

The happy times that you and I shared together are precious and so special. We shared something that neither of us had or will have with any other person. I am who I am now because of you; you're a part of me and you always will be. I think of you every day, and I always will.

Love,
Jessica

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My first music blog-type post

So I bought this violin... and tonight Niyati came over and taught me part of a new song, so I thought I'd use it for my first music blog post. It's in Raga Ashamand, and is a piece that she learned in UofA Indian Music Ensemble. Warning: I can't play in tune yet, but I'm getting better every day!


raga ashamand at Muziboo.com

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tattoo and Fiddle

This week I made two big purchases: a tattoo and a fiddle. I'm so happy with them both!

I got the tattoo on Tuesday from a great artist named Nelson at Pinz N Needlz on U st in DC. It took him 3 hours to free-hand the art onto my body, then another 3.5 hours to do the actual tattoo. Man, it hurt so bad, but it was definitely worth it. Now it's almost healed and it's so beautiful! I'll be going back in August to have some more shading added to it, but that will be considerably less painful than the lettering was.

On Friday I got the fiddle from House of Musical Traditions in Takoma Park. It's got a beautiful sound and I've been practicing a lot this weekend. I named it Chloe. It got a lot of action on Friday night at her going-away party, so it seemed only fair. I'm looking forward to becoming an old-timey fiddler and I can already scratch out a few songs! I have happy blisters on my fingers that make me smile every time I look at them.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Soup and Poetry

I've spent this evening on my front porch with Ophelia the cat, the fireflies, and the fog under the terrifying hum of the cicadas eating soup and reading Lorca. Here is the pantry recipe I used tonight, which turned out quite to be delicious, and one of the poems from his set of Ghazals that I read over and over. I love all eleven of them, and it was hard to choose just one to share.

Bean Soup

2 cups stock
1 big clove garlic
2 shallots
3 carrots
1 can black beans
1 cup soy beans (but I think 2 cans of black beans would be better)
handful cilantro
2 bay leaves
1 dry red chili, whole with seeds removed
zest of one lemon (but lime would be better)
salt to taste

Sautee onions and garlic. Add stock and bring to a gentle boil. Add carrots and beans and seasonings. Cook until everything is soft. Remove the bay leaves and chili and blend until smooth. I added some juice from the lemon when I served it, maybe garnish with more cilantro.


IX. Ghazal of Flight
by Federico García Lorca (transl. Catherine Brown)

I have often been lost on the sea
with my ear full of fresh-cut flowers
with my tongue full of agony and love.
Often I have been lost on the sea,
as I am lost in the heart of certain children.

There is no one who can kiss
without feeling the smile of those without faces;
there is no one who can touch
an infant and forget the immobile skulls of horses.

Because roses search the forehead
for a hard landscape of bone,
and human hands have no more sense
than to mimic roots beneath the soil.

As I am lost in the heart of certain children,
I have often been lost on the sea.
Not knowing water, I keep looking
to be consumed in luminous death.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Park Hunters

On the way home from the metro today, two young girls ran in front of me on the path through the park and yelled, "YOU CAN'T PASS!!"

"Are you monsters?" I replied.

"Naw, we're hunters. We're hunting the squirrels and the birds. We live in the park over by that tree there."

"What do you do with the animals after you hunt them?"

"We eat them, of course."

"How do you cook them?"

"With fire." She pointed to a small pile of sticks a little ways away. "See, you rub them sticks together until they make smoke, and then you get fire."

"Ah yes," I answered knowingly. "I've tried that before. It's hard."

The look of wonder spread across her face and her eyes opened wide. "Have you did it?"

"Nope! Like I said, it's hard. But I bet you could do it."

Then they took me for a tour of park, pointing out all the special trees--one was a couch, a shower, a TV, a refrigerator--and told me all about being squirrel hunters in the park. Then I thanked them and wished them luck, and came home to cook non-make-believe food for dinner.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Happy Canada Day!

To celebrate today, I went to the Canadian embassy for the party there. I waited in line for a long time to get in, and as far as parties go, it was a little bit lame. However, I can't express how fulfilling it was to spend an hour surrounded by people from my home going through a similar experience of dislocation as me. We sang the anthem and made small talk in English and French. There was free poutine and beer for everyone, and an inflatable hockey game for the kids. Red and white and people with little Canada flags temporary-tattooed on their faces abounded, and we all got miniature flags to wave enthusiastically.

After work I went with Chloe and Matt to meet with my tattoo artist and discuss the design I'm getting. I made an appointment for next Tuesday! I'll post pics asap. Afterwards we went to Ben's Chili Bowl and I had my first chilidog. Oh man oh man, it had to be one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. And we got the added pleasure of making all sorts of innuendos as we ate.

Now I've spent the evening chatting about boys with my roommates, photoshopping and listening to music. A fun and relaxing Canada day, all in all.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Lightning and Fireflies


Tonight it's hot and the air is heavy. After it got dark I sat on the front steps for an hour watching the most incredible lightning storm I've ever seen. The lightning flashed almost constantly above me, mostly staying high in the clouds, but occasionally appearing below to strike something on the ground. The thunder came in a continuous low rumble, punctuated by loud cracks when the lightning struck close. There was no rain, just eerily still, oppressive air.

As I watched the lightning fireflies came out and began flashing in the street and yard in front of me. I saw my first firefly up close the day I arrived in DC, but this is the first time that I've seen them all around me. They flashed on the periphery of my vision, sometimes fooling me into thinking that they were a trick of my eyes and not really there.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Planets

Today the Folklife Festival opened on the Mall. I went over to the opening ceremony this morning, which was kind of boring, and checked out the Bhutanese temple. It's very beautiful, especially up close. I didn't walk through it though so I'll have to make sure to do that next time. The festival looks like it will be really great and I'm looking forward to spending more time there.

After lunch the office was so lonely with everyone down on the mall. I nodded off a little 2, but some tea and cookies fixed me up. The, like the nerd that I am, I had a major victory over my javascript. I learned how to reduce our popup window javascript from about 8 lines of code plus an extra file to a single line of code. Yay me! Also, yesterday I created our header template using only CSS instead of having to create each one in Photoshop, which will save a lot of work down the road. It's okay if you don't understand this geek-talk, but both were things that I wanted to do during my previous internship and didn't get the chance for several reasons. And both got surprisingly good reviews from my supervisor.

After work I went to the National Museum of the American Indian to see the "Space Philharmonic" (actually the NSO) play Holst's "The Planets" with a slideshow of NASA images as an add-on event to the Festival. The acoustics in the atrium weren't the greatest, but I just love that museum and the music was great. The only thing I didn't like was that in between each movement they stopped so that someone could read a blurb about the plant. It sort of killed the flow for me, but it was free and I still enjoyed it a lot.

Tomorrow evening I head back out to Baltimore for singing, which is always one of the highlights of my week.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Afternoon

I'm sitting on the front porch of my new home with Ophelia the cat, eating squash soup that I made in the spring. The porch is filled with flowers and herbs cultivated by my roommate, and is perfect in every way. I just watched a small sparrow fly into the crevices of the awning where it must have a nest, and a moment later I could hear the urgent twittering sounds baby birds waiting to be fed.

The air is hot, but the breeze is cool and it's a lovely slow Saturday afternoon. After such a busy, exhausting week there is nothing better than to sit on the porch eating soup, listening to baby birds, and soaking in the summer air.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Many changes

Well, I'm back in DC again for more internship fun (but this time with a paycheque). I've been too exhausted to update in a while, but hopefully this weekend will offer the opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. I just got home from my first Baltimore weekly singing in over a month, and it was sooo good to see and sing with my b'more friends again.

I've discovered that along with all the life changes (permanent relocation from my hometown, for example) I've had a strong desire and finally the guts to make body modifications too. I got my nose pierced a couple of weeks ago and yesterday I started stretching my ears. They hurt really bad, but I think it'll feel better in a couple of days. My face feels so full of stuff after wearing almost no jewellery for many years... it's disconcerting a little but also a lot of fun. Pictures will come soon when I have the energy to think about it again.

I sold or gave away most of my stuff in Edmonton, which has been a scary and exciting adventure. Also stressful at times. I think I like the idea of not being tied down to stuff, but since I'm still living in this crazy limbo with no bed or pillows or boxes I'm not sure yet. Tomorrow I will get a proper bed and some small bedroom furniture items, and make it more comfortable.

Off to bed now for what will hopefully be a better night's sleep than last night. I'll write more soon!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Coming Through Slaughter

Aaron bought me a copy of this book by Michael Ondaatje years ago, and I'm only just reading it now. It's incredible! It's a wonderful and compelling mixture of prose and poetry, and so far the characters are riveting. It's about a jazz trumpeter named Benny Bolden in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century:

He was the best and loudest and most loved jazzman of his time, but never professional in the brain. Unconcerned with the crack of the lip he threw out and held immense notes, could reach a force on the first note that attacked the ear. He was obsessed with the magic of air, those smells that turned neuter as they revolved in his lung then spat out in the chosen key. The way the side of his mouth would drag a net of air in and dress it in notes and make it last and last, yearning to leave it up there in the sky like air transformed into cloud. He could see the air, could tell where it was freshest in a room by the colour.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

2003

In 2003 I won an undergraduate research award from my university. I remember Q kicking my butt to help me write and awesome proposal, and I remember how excited I was when I found out I had won. But now 5 years later the research I did seems insignificant and flawed.

However, Q recently got in touch with me to invite me to contribute some thoughts on that research for a website project she's working on. I went through a video of the concert I put on to wrap up the project and through my old notes, and today I gave an interview on the project. It was nice to be reminded that the work I did was actually important and meaningful to many people, including me.

I can't believe that I had the audacity to organise that concert. There were over 80 performers in 6 ensembles, and the concert ended up running close to 4 hours. It was a huge success though; the hall was very full and everyone seemed to really enjoy the concert. It was so much work to arrange it all in a way that was respectful to all the performers and sensitive to the fact that the devotional music they were performing is often not performed on a concert stage. I'm still so grateful to all the performers, but especially the ladies (my ladies) from the Hindu society temple who dressed me up in the lovely sari and bangles and performed so well.


Here's an excerpt from a capping report that I wrote up at the end of the summer:

I formed several friendships with the people that I have worked with this summer and my personal experiences have offered great insight into the relationships that this music can foster. I truly enjoy making music with these people and conversing with them. In spite of these warm relationships, many people are still apprehensive about giving interviews, although they will talk enthusiastically on the subject informally.

I learned a great deal about the ethnographic process. All of the books world can’t prepare you for the first time you go into a strange place to meet informants and start the research process. It takes an assertive attitude that does not come naturally to me; I really had to work up the courage to go up to those first people and introduce myself. And it doesn’t end there. Once they agree to do an interview I am always filled with anxiety, “Will I ask the right questions?” “Will they feel comfortable talking to me?” and the list goes on. While the interview process has gotten more comfortable as I learn more on the topic and feel comfortable discussing the musical and social elements, I still get nervous.

Monday, May 26, 2008

On Hands

I have always noticed hands. I tend to form my opinions of people based on their hands before any other aspect of their appearances. People's hands tell very honest stories of who they are and what they do if you look closely at the posture, skin and nails.

I've always been proud of my hands. I love the shape of my fingers and wrists, and my nails that look long even when cut short. They have often given me problems--I tend to carry a lot of tension in my wrists and hands, particularly when I'm playing instruments and typing, and as a result I've had problems with RSIs and inflammatory arthritis off and on since jr. high.

I remember being ashamed of my hands for the only time in my life when I was working part time at the book bindery. My hands became covered in cuts and scratches, callouses, and scars. They were often so dirty that I couldn't scrub them clean no matter how hard I tried. Not that I'm ashamed of working with my hands, per se, but it was like a visual marker of work that I forced to do because of the challenging circumstances of my life at the time.

I enjoy looking at the hands of people who work hard building or creating things. There is a long line of carpenters in my family, a trade that routinely leaves fingers scarred and damaged. There are many trades that leave the legacy of all the things built on the hands of people who built them.

The delicate callouses particular to musicians are unique and interesting. They are accompanied by finely honed technique and skill, and a sensitivity of touch special to each instrument. They can be worn with pride, and they are symbols of years of dedication and hard work.

I remember my Grandma Bert's hands vividly. Her skin was so fine that it was almost transparent, and even the slightest bump would leave her with horrible dark bruises. You could see her veins and the small brown sun spots that covered them from too many years of gardening without sunscreen. She had long fingers like me with deeply ridged nails and tendons that stood out across her knuckles. There is no surer sign of an aging body to me than hands that have lost the ability to hold, write and express.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

On Food

Something I think about a lot: food and eating. I've had issues with my stomach since I was 11. It usually manifested as debilitating pain under my solar plexus shortly after eating, which led me to eat considerably less to avoid the pain. This problem persisted pretty much steadily until I was about 20, when it just sort of cleared up. It has returned a few times since then, when I've been particularly stressed. I have undergone every test that exists to no avail, and I think that it's actually caused by eating after not eating for a long period because I generally notice that it returns when I eat a big meal after skipping 1-2 meals prior because I'm too busy to eat.

So, one of my favourite columnists/bloggers is Mark Bittman from the NY times. He does the Minimalist column/video and a blog called Bitten. A few days ago I watched a 20-min video of a conference presentation that he gave about meat consumption in the US that was interesting. The slides left a lot to be desired, but I really like his style. It reminded me of the life- and diet-changing article that I read last year about "real food" and vitamins--that I searched and searched for but couldn't find. The whole premise of the article is that there's no proof that our bodies are able to do anything with vitamins when they are not ingested as food, thus it is much better to eat food that doesn't have ingredients because it is an ingredient.

Bittman makes a comment in this video about how, prior to the mid-20thC, there were no "philosophies of eating;" people just ate food. It was the food that could be grown and raised locally and it was prepared according to traditional practices. I've never liked to think of myself as having a philosophy of eating, because it inevitably leads me to overanalyse what I eat, which then leads to eating paralysis--and I end up not eating until I have so little energy that I can't get out of bed. However, I think that this article I read last year helped me to create a philosophy of eating that is mostly unconscious. It's taken time to change my tastes, but the impact on my health has been undeniable.

When I eat food that is primarily ingredients (starting from raw vegetables, whole grains, fresh herbs, good quality oil, locally raised meat--if any at all) I feel really good. Not only do I have more energy, but I don't get indigestion or bloating any more. I rarely have the desire to eat processed foods, and the only times that I find myself getting the eating paralysis is when I eat several meals in a row of food that I haven't prepared for myself. I start panicking about what I might have ingested or what nutritional value I might have missed out on, and then I have a difficult time eating anything at all. I still don't really have any control over this aspect of my behaviour, but improving my eating habits has made it crop up less often. I also feel better from an ethical standpoint because eating this way produces considerably less waste.

The part of this new eating and cooking experience that makes it most like a philosophy (I think) is that I'm hyperconscious all the time of the nutritional content of my food. Because I don't believe in taking vitamin supplements, it's really important to me that I'm getting a balanced diet--and I'm literally terrified of consuming empty calories (although I still do it from time to time because desert is delicious). I try to get the most nutritional content out of each calorie that I eat, and this is good and bad. My cooking doesn't taste as good as it used to, although I'm learning techniques to improve the flavour and also add nutritional value. One of my favourite pleasures is eating really, really good food... and I'm baffled by how easy it is for me to eat my own cooking without exceptional flavours. That said, my cooking isn't bland--it just uses next to no salt, only just enough fat, and only whatever sauces come from cooking the veggies or meat and deglazing. I do season heavily with fresh herbs and aromatic things like onion, garlic, and ginger.

The summary: My philosophy of eating is to eat real food that doesn't have ingredients because it is an ingredient, and to maximise the nutritional bang for each bite through eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains with meat occasionally thrown in.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pure Entertainment

Easily one of the most entertaining things I've seen on tv in years, this clip captivated me last night. From Season 4 of So You Think You Can Dance. It goes and goes, and gets better and better right to the end!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Breakfast...

... is one of the great joys of my day. I know that everything is going well in my life when I am consistently able to make and eat a healthy, satisfying breakfast each day. For the last 6 or 7 months my breakfast of choice has been 2 eggs (basted), and apple (gala, chopped), a cup of tea with milk and sugar, and sometimes cinnamon-raisin toast with peanut butter or nutella and/or a fried tomato. It depends on how hungry I am and how long I have to go before lunch.

My old favourite breakfast was balkan-style yogurt with cheerios and blueberries, but now I can't digest the lactose any more so I had to say goodbye to yogurt. I have also gone on french toast and pancake kicks here and there. Coffee and pancakes with fruit salad is such a satisfying breakfast on a Sunday morning.

I've thought a lot about the rituals in my life, because I've never really made a conscious or spiritual effort to include any in my day. I've discovered that there are some rituals that I rely on for structure, without which I feel quite lost. Breakfast is one of them: I start by putting on the kettle for my tea, then heating some oil in the frying pan. When the oil is just the right consistency, I carefully crack in the eggs (if the yolks break I don't enjoy them as much) and add the tomato. I pour the water over my tea and chop the apple. When it's all ready, I read the news and check in on my favourite blogs while I eat. I will forsake all other parts of my morning preparations to make time to have breakfast. It just always gets me started on the right track for the day--giving my body and my mind fuel to tackle the day's challenges.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Great Graffiti Hunt


On Saturday I evening I walked down across the high level bridge and around Garneau for a couple of hours, photographing as much stencil art and graffiti as I could find. Anyone who has spent time in downtown Edmonton or Old Strathcona will recognise these pop art images, found on dumpsters, walls, transformer boxes, and various other common surfaces. Most of my favourite images from summers past have been painted over now, but it's startling the impact they have left behind.

The famous stencil image of the bird and the words "listen" have been transformed by many new artists in hand-drawn renditions, paper appliques of various sizes, and all sorts of parodies. Sadly, I could only find one of the original stencils of this image on my hunt, but there were a variety of new images. I particularly like the "I spent my $400 on spray paint" reference to the Klein government "dividend" payments.

Check out this awesome video that Chloe shared on Facebook. It's a graffiti short film, and it's incredibly impressive.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hola from Edmonton


I'm home safe, and getting settled in. Thankfully, the warm weather has followed me home and spring is going strong. My flights were hassle-free and early, both. My hair is cut and styled, and I'm feeling quite good. Missing my DC friends already, of course, but keeping busy to distract myself.

One of my goals with this return is to attempt to look at Edmonton through new eyes. My feelings about it while in DC were largely that it's isolated and sort of barren (having left from living downtown in winter). Yesterday morning I walked down to the legislative grounds to begin my exploration, and I wandering among the budding trees soaking in the warm sun. It is interesting that the legislative building, which seemed so big to me as a child, is literally dwarfed by most buildings in DC. However, it's beautiful and you can walk right up the front steps and go inside unbothered.

Spring here feels a little more special than anywhere else I've been because it lasts for such a short time. In just a few weeks summer will be fully upon us, and the trees have only just begun to turn green. I plan to enjoy every moment of it.

This morning I'm planning on going for a walk in Goldbar Park. This is where we scattered my Grandpa's ashes, and I have fond memories of it as a child.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Last Day


I had a great last day in DC today. I spent the morning and early afternoon packing and cleaning and playing fiddle. Then I went downtown, had coffee with a friend, and wandered the mall contemplatively for an hour or so. Even filled with tourists, it's a beautiful park. Everything is so green and lush.

This evening the interns held a going-away party for me. It was a wonderful distraction from my imminent departure. There was good food, conversation and much music and merriment. They printed up a lovely photo of us all together, and presented it to me along with a copy of Rocky Horror Picture Show (that one's an inside joke). It's been such a pleasure to get to know them all, and I really hope that I get the chance to come back and spend more time with them.

Now it's late and I must attempt to sleep so that I'm somewhat alert for my flight home tomorrow. It would be a shame to miss my connecting flight by 2 hours or something due to sleepiness...

The next post will be from Canada!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Going Away


Friday night was my farewell party. We held it at J's new house (suitably unpacked) and received a good showing of great friends and lots of good food. A highlight for me was christening the new house with some singing, powerful and heartfelt as always. Later I played fiddle with N and E, my first time playing with other people. We played "Dying Californian," and I was quite pleased with how it sounded. All around, a wonderful evening.

On Saturday K and I saw the Maps exhibit at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. It was incredible. I have always had a fascination with maps (I'm surprised that I've never really been one of those people who feels driven to travel). I would paper my walls with maps if I could. It was really interesting to see, contrasted, all the different ways of representing the world around us.

Later in the evening we met up with N&J for some Wii action. I love it! As it turns out, I'm pretty good at bowling, I suck at tennis, and I kick butt at boxing. I think my boxing skill comes from my willingness to flail about wildly, and my back and shoulders are still regretting it today.

On Sunday I went for brunch and then saw Iron Man with K&K. What a fun movie! I don't think I've even been fully disappointed by a comic book movie (I even like Silver Surfer), but this one was better than most. Yay for gratuitous flamethrowing and wild explosions!

Intensity?


I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to have this characteristic. Usually I can tell it when I see it, because it throws me off guard and makes me a little uncomfortable. I have recently been described this way, thanks to K's fanTAStic photos (see them all here). If I have intensity, I think it comes from my ability to focus, whether on my work or music or people. These photos certainly make me a little uncomfortable, yet I can't seem to stop looking at them.

I have to say, Flickr has changed the way I think of images on the Internet. I can't believe it's taken me so long to get hooked on it! I can just spend hours looking through people's photos. I've decided that my favourites are of people, especially good profiles and ones with really saturated colour.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dinner


Last night I went out for very tasty Chinese food with Niya and Auntie, and it was a wonderful evening. N complains about Auntie's nagging behind her back, but she does it just as well. To spend time around the loving bickering was exactly what I needed yesterday, plus I finally got to meet Gopi after hearing soooo much about her! It was a lovely evening.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Moved

It has been an eventful few days here. On Thursday I took the usual trip out to Baltimore for singing, then stayed over with K&K for the night. On Friday morning I did a little work, then played Debussy and Bach for several hours. We went downtown for Flower Mart and lunch, then K and I ran errands and walked in a bigbig park. Flower Mart was interesting... there were not a great lot of flowers, but there was a hat competition. Baltimore is such a great city! The streets are paved with cement that has coloured glass bits in it.

On Saturday we went out to Boyce, VA for the monthly Northern Shenandoah Valley singing, then back to the Del Res' for visiting and more singing. The evening was filled with tearful goodbyes, but hopefully I will be back soon to visit.

Sunday was moving day. J's new house is awesome! It's in Greenbelt, a co-op community on the outskirts of DC, and it's so treefilled and friendly and relaxed. I'm very happy for her, and even though the commute is long and expensive, I'm glad to be living here with her for the end of my stay.

I go home a week from tomorrow. It's exciting and sad at the same time...

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Photoshop...


... or "shooping" as the very nerdy say, is addictive. I'm learning all sorts of new techniques, and while I still can't convincingly turn an overweight lingerie model into a skinny one like in the infamous video, I have figured out how to do just about anything I want to so far.

I've started a Flickr page for showing some of my experiments. Not much there now, but soon... soon.



Tuesday, April 29, 2008

In Music and in Life


I've had this article in my email inbox for 7 years, since Aaron forwarded it to me in 2001. I still pull it out every so often, and it never fails to move and inspire me.


On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City. If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child, and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage to his chair. They remain reverently silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs. They wait until he is ready to play. But this time, something went wrong.

Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. People who were there that night said later: "We figured he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage - to either find another violin or else find another string for this one." But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.

The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before. Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing, recomposing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awed silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us and then he said - not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone, "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left." What a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard it. And who knows? Perhaps that is the definition of life - not just for artists but for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, finds himself with only three strings; so he makes music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any he had ever made before, when he had four strings. So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music with what we have left.

--Jack Riemer, Houston Chronicle, Feb 10, 2001

Monday, April 28, 2008

We laugh, we cry, we sing


Q once cited these to me as the three truths of life in such a casual way as to strike me as extremely profound. I recall her telling me that she was quoting Tagore, but when I questioned her about it some years later she had no recollection of saying it to me.

As promised, here is a picture of the azaleas in our front yard.

On Saturday I went to an all-day singing in York, PA. We sang in an old quaker meeting house with white walls and wooden benches, the doors and windows open on all sides to let the breeze through. It was a small singing (maybe 40 people) and the parts were a little lopsided, but it was thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. The food was abundant and delicious as always, and we sat outside on a blanket to eat. I got to lead twice, and I chose 274t and 384. I'm finding that it's the most fun to lead songs that I know by heart (which is still few) because it's easier to make eye contact with the other singers.

I spent the rest of the weekend with K&K hanging out in Baltimore. What a great city! On Friday night we wandered around Fells Point and then had dinner in a great seafood restaurant with N&J (rockfish with crab and wasabi sauce, mmm). The harbour is beautiful, and it's the last area in Baltimore that still has cobblestone streets. After dinner we had gelato then went to Tyler's to see another friend from singing play. He sang and played guitar with the country swing singer and a great fiddler, and it was so good! It made me want to go home a practice more...

I just have 2 weeks left at my internship. It's bittersweet--there's a lot of work to do before I go and I will miss my new friends very much, but I'm looking forward to being home again. Next weekend we're moving J into her new house, and I think I will stay there with her for the last 10 days before fly home.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I promise to start updating more often again!

I've been such a slacker, I know. I've just been so busy lately with many exciting things and time is passing so quickly.

On Friday night J and I hung out around home and drank and watched TV. On Saturday I had a museum day with the other interns. We saw the cinema exhibit at the Hirshhorn and the Color Fields exhibit at the American Art museum. Afterwards we came back to my place and drank and talked and watch a movie. It was fun and relaxing day.

The Hirshhorn exhibit was really interesting. It seemed as though almost half of the installations were by Canadian artists, and there was quite a variety of styles. The almost unanimous favourite was a Canadian film called "Trailer" and an easy second was an installation of a doll hanging from the wall with a projection of David Bowie's face looking around and talking as though he were talking to the people walking by. Creepy and wonderful.

On Sunday it rained and rained all day. We went to the market then relaxed and napped the rest of the day. It was the perfect Sunday.

On Monday I went with the interns to see a French ska/reggae band on the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Centre. It was so much fun! We danced and danced and drank really cheap happy hour beer.

Tomorrow is my weekly trip to Baltimore for Sacred Harp, then on Friday I'm going back to Baltimore to spend the night and head out to PA for an all-day singing. I'm so excited, although it means I have to miss going to see Feist and Hayden play in Charlottesville. Ah well, can't do everything.

p.s. The azaleas are blooming. Pictures to come soon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The "mountains"


Yesterday J and I went to Shenandoah National Park and hiked on the Appalachian trail. The Appalachian trail goes from Georgia to Maine, and it's got a lot of significance of some sort (which I haven't really read up yet, I just take people's word for it). The forest was beautiful, but very dead looking. It seems like spring doesn't hit the trails as quickly as it hits the woods by the road. We got milkshakes on the way home!

On Friday night I went to see the Skampa Quartet at the Library of Congress. I left at the intermission because the first half was really long, but the first half was great. They did Janacek's string quartet n. 1 and a collection of Moravian folk songs with an interesting singer. They are the first string quartet that I've ever seen stand for the entire performance.

The fiddling is coming along slowly, but I didn't make time to practice this weekend. This week I'll make more time.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The last week

I've been so busy (and when not busy tired) that I've sadly neglected to post for the last week. It's been wonderfully eventful though!

On Thursday I went out to Baltimore for Sacred Harp, as usual. In the first half it was quite a large group with many visitors. The second half pared down a little and I sang tenor for the first time. It was an interesting experience, and I fared much better on the unfamiliar songs because I didn't already have a part stuck in my head. I think it's a little too high for me to sing comfortably, but it was fun to really hear the melody for a change. I think I'll still keep on tenor now and again for the practice singings.

On Friday J and I went for games night at the O'Malley's. It was a small gathering of us, but it was fun. I chatted with Matthew about career stuff, and he had a lot of good insight on what sorts of jobs I might look for. He and Margaux are very similar to me in interests and it was good to hear their web design stories. Then we played Carcassonne... I love that game! I think 4 is the perfect number though, it goes a little too slow for me with 5 people. I lost, but it was still great fun.

On Saturday and Sunday I went to the Potomac River Sacred Harp Convention. It was small (no more than 120 people at any time I'd say) but powerful. There were so many good singers and good leaders and the energy was consistently high. I skipped the social on Saturday night and came home and made soup and relaxed on the front porch. I got to lead 4 songs over the weekend, and I think I led well on all of them (although when I led 335 I turned the beat around on the last repeat, but everyone went with me so it wasn't so bad. That's what I get for leading from memory. I made up for it with an awesome "three-peat" on 76 on the bottom). I've realised that I really like to lead fast songs, and this group of singers likes to sing fast. Most of the tempos were above what I'm used to, except for a handful of exceptionally slow and long songs (not my taste so much. Anything slower than walking speed is too slow for me to get into).

On Sunday night J and I started watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice again, and watched more last night. I was so wiped after the weekend that I just didn't have the energy for anything else, except for grocery shopping. I *love* Whole Foods and will miss it so much when I go home!

Yesterday at lunch I went to a lecture-demonstration at the Library of Congress with the other interns. It was on Jewish women's songs from Kerala. I'd had no idea that there was a Jewish community there, but I learned that the oldest standing synagogue, called palli in Malayalam, was built in 1553. However, there are only a couple dozen jews still living in Kerala because most of the community moved to Israel in the 1970s. The people who put on the demonstration are from a small group who are working to preserve the traditional Malayalam songs, and have produced a few CDs and books on the subject--including a book that has the transliteration of the songs in Hebrew for the young people living in Israel. It was a very interesting demonstration, and I wish I could have seen the accompanying concert!

Today I have more fiddle practice planned. I've started gathering a compilation of Folkways fiddle recordings for myself so that I can learn after I go home. I've decided that I most want to learn old-timey fiddling, and Matthew introduced me to an old-timey fiddler at the farmer's market last weekend. They are planning on holding a house party when she returns from Guatemala in a couple of weeks, and hopefully my skills will be good enough by then to play a few songs!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Beaux Arts Trio

I saw the Beaux Arts Trio last night with friends from work at the Library of Congress. The concert was wonderful! I loved the Ravel trio that they did in the first half, and they came back for three encores. I felt as though it was a little excessive, but the bonus was still nice--particularly the movement from a Shostakovich trio that they did as the first encore. I have always loved chamber music... I think partly because of the intimacy of it and partly because you really get to see the performers' characters.

The concert was free, but it was a whole evening event just to get tickets. We arrived at 5:45 to line up in the lobby of the library for our free tickets, then at 6:30 someone came around and passed out numbers, telling us to come back at 7:30 for our tickets. We were numbers 12-15, so figured we'd probably get in (they reserve a certain number ahead of time through Ticketmaster, so the available tickets are from no-shows or something). We went for cheapcheap beer and chicken wings at a bar down the road, and came back at 7:30 where we sat down in a waiting room that looked like it was set up for a lecture. At 8, two ladies began calling numbers and passing out tickets. We got 2 pairs on opposite sides of the hall, but it was okay. I was on the left side, aisle, close to the stage, so I had a fantastic view.

It was a very strange experience to get into the concert, but totally worth the trouble. I think next time I'll try to reserve my tickets online though!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Music and more music

The NY Times posted some videos today about Bjork's new video, "Wanderlust". Here is an interview with her about the process. It's a 3-D video, so if you see an opportunity to watch it in 3-D, don't pass it up!

The Strathmore singing on Sunday was not spectacular; most of the people in attendance were new singers. However, my friends from work came and were nonetheless taken (at least a little) by the music. We're going to try out doing a short singing school at lunch time after we eat and try to learn a song each day we sing. I hope it goes well!

This weekend is the Potomac River Convention. I'm so excited to finally be going to a convention where I can bring food! I'm thinking cucumber salad and cookies.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

An eventful weekend!



On Friday I walked the tidal basin and savoured the cherry blossoms... so beautiful! I also go to see the Jefferson and Roosevelt memorials. I particularly like the Roosevelt memorial... it's a little more modern looking and very welcoming.

On Saturday afternoon I met up with Maria (another intern from work) in the mall and we checked out the kite festival then went to the Natural History museum. The kites were so beautiful and there were so many. Our favourite was one that looked like legs--quite comical flying up next to the Washington Memorial.



After burgers for dinner we met up with Doug and Matt (also interns) to see the NSO at the Kennedy Center. It was an absolutely amazing concert! They did 2 chamber orchestra pieces: Stravinsky and Poulenc, both interesting and fun. They did Shostakovich symphony no. 6--which was violent and loud mixed with the most incredible exposed winds and solos. Early in the piece there is an incredible piccolo solo accompanied only by 1st chair second violin (I think it was) and the basses, and it totally took my breath away. They also did the Prokofiev piano concert no. 1 with a Canadian Pianist from Montreal. It was spectacular and powerful.

After the symphony, Doug, Matt and I went to see some jazz at Twins on U st. It was a fun show too.

This morning J found out that the offer she made on a house in Greenbelt was accepted! We've been celebrating all day. Also, she's teaching me how to play violin. I'm determined to learn how to fiddle. I'm not very good yet, and my bowing hand keeps cramping. It's fun though, and I think I'll pick it up pretty quickly.

This evening is Sacred Harp at Strathmore Mansion. I hope it's good!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Planet B-Boy...

... is a great movie! The interns all got free tickets to see this movie downtown tonight and we all loved it. See the official website here.

After the movie we ate burritos on the patio (or "party" as M said) of a cute little mexican take-out place. I love-love-love spring!

La India Canela

She's a merengue tipico accordionist from the Dominican Republic, and we just released her fantastic new CD yesterday. It's really high energy merengue with a very traditional sound. It will definitely make you want to dance!

Here is the feature I published on her yesterday to Smithsonian Global Sound (There are 2 great video clips).

Here is where you can download her album.

I got to meet her a couple of times around the office, which was very cool. On Monday night there was a big reception for her at the DR embassy, which, as an intern, I wasn't on the list for, but sounded like great fun. Sadly, I didn't get her autograph... but I'm not a particularly star-struck sort of girl.

Check out her album!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

This has been a fantastic Easter! Yesterday I headed out to a farm in Virginia with some friends from the Baltimore Sacred Harp singing for a sunrise Easter service at the local 18thC Anglican chapel. We arrived early and got to spend some time with the new baby lambs and go for a walk around the property. After a fantastic dinner we did some singing, relaxing and chatting. We got up very early in the morning to bundle up and head to the old stone church in the dark. The service was small but very lovely, and it was fun to sing in such and old place.

After the service we headed back to the farmhouse for a feast of a breakfast, more singing, and an Easter egg hunt. On Saturday afternoon we coloured the eggs, and then the family went out and hid them for the scavenger hunt. My team came in second and my prize was a pretty little pitcher/vase. We spend more time walking around outside and eating, then headed back to town this afternoon.

Now I'm just relaxing before some friends come over to join us for a turkey dinner that J and her mom have been busily preparing all weekend while I was off galavanting the the sheep.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Boobies and Twinkies

I went to my first burlesque show last night at Palace of Wonders. It was great fun! The show was called Gilded Lily (I believe they are a troupe of performers). They seemed a little bit amateur at times, and the performances lacked some variety, but they managed to entertain quite well. One of the girls in particular, Sable Sin Cyr, struck me as having a very classic burlesque look... like in the old black and white movies.

There was a lot of dancing, elaborate costumes, and colourful nipple tassles. As sexy as it got, they were never totally nude, and they didn't stay on stage very long once the nipple pasties were exposed. Much more classy than the typical strip show I think. Also, the MC was a chubby guy in a red polyester Elvis costume who told bad jokes in between the performances. Gave a definite lightness to the evening.

Surprisingly (to me) the audience was more than half female, and many of them seemed very unlikely sorts to be at such a racy show. I think it really made the experience more comfortable to have such a varied audience... sort of reminded me of the Commercial in Edmonton that way, but with many fewer creepy old guys.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Thinking food

Today at work one of the other interns asked me if I'm a health nut because we were discussing the kinds of food we like to prepare and eat, and I talked about how I feel really uncomfortable choosing processed foods. This got me thinking. I don't believe that I'm a "health nut," but I definitely think hard about everything I eat.

I've developed a food philosophy based on trying to maximise the amount of nutrition I take take in for each portion of food that I eat. I avoid empty calories and try to incorporate the "superfoods" that contain a variety of things my body needs in order to balance my diet. I don't calorie count and I don't focus on making sure I get a specific amount of meat/fruit/bread/veggies/etc.

On the other side of my philosophy is the fact that I really enjoy eating and I want every bite to count. I try not to eat things that don't satisfy my palate, and this keeps me from over-indulging and snacking on candy bars. I prefer to use high quality, fresh ingredients and prepare them myself. Not only does it taste better than package food, it doesn't contain all of those chemicals and preservatives that make me feel crappy.

So, I'm decidedly not a health nut because I do give in often and eat delicious food that is not particularly healthy with no remorse. I'm just especially aware of what I put into my body and how different foods make me feel, so I adjust my diet accordingly.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Board Games

After several fun games nights here, I'm learning that I love board games! But not all of them, my favourites are the ones with maps and strong visual elements, and those that are fast paced. Settlers of Catan is a lot of fun, but a pain to set up and kind of slow. I think Carcassonne is my favourite new game that I've learned, I'll need to buy that when I get home I think. Last night I played Ticket to Ride with some friends from Edmonton. That one is fast and competitive, which worked well for my style.

Games nights are definitely on my list of things to start doing when I get back to Edmonton, along with weekly trips to the farmer's market and more home-cooked meals.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

St. Patrick's Day...


...was, in fact, yesterday. It seems that most of us didn't get the memo that it was changed. I actually got the wrong memo and was told it was on Friday. Many people I talked to were in disbelief that St Patrick's day could be moved, but if you think about it as a Catholic holiday rather than a day for drinking green beer and dressing in ridiculous clothes, it makes a lot of sense. Easter holy week begins today and they didn't want the saint's feast to overlap with holy week stuff.

"While religious celebrations honoring St. Patrick are affected, religious and secular authorities stressed this would not change secular festivities. The St. Patrick's Festival Committee in Dublin confirmed that next year's parade would be March 17 as usual."
--Catholic News Agency announcement.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Baltimore Adventure

Last night after work I took the MARC train out to Baltimore for a singing. It was small, but fantastic! There were about 10 people there and they were all very strong singers. It was quite a journey to get out there (about and hour and a half of traveling time each way) but it was definitely worth it! It helps that they are all such nice people. I'm really looking forward to the next singing in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Western MA pics

One of the other attendees at the convention sent out a link to her pictures on the fasola listserv. They give a much better idea of the convention than mine...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Western MA Singing


This was a fantastic singing! It was totally worth the trip. I flew up to Providence to meet K and J, then the 3 of us drove to Northampton on Saturday morning. There were over 400 people registered for the singing by the end of Sunday, but probably not more than about 350 at any given time.

I sat on the front bench for one session each day, which was very exciting. I especially love the really driving songs with strong beats, and the fast tunes (but not too fast!)

I met some fantastic singers from Baltimore, and I'm going to try a lot harder to get out to those weekly singings. They sound like so much fun!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pub Food


My new favourite pub food is crab cake sandwiches. Around here they are made with Maryland crab, in big flavourful chunks. They are so much tastier than any crab cakes I've ever had before! Usually it's just the crab cake with tomato, lettuce and tartar sauce. Always with fries. Yum!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Music and Wine

Two of my favourite things! On Friday I saw Pink Martini and the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. It was fantastic! On Wednesday I'm going to be singing sea chanties at a pub in Wheaton, and this weekend I'm heading to the Western MA Sacred Harp convention. It's a very music-filled week, just the way I like it. There will certainly be pictures to follow soon...

I've been drinking far more red wine than I ever used to. I have two new favourites: Ravenswood Merlot and Affreschi Nero D'Avola. The merlot is very affordable (around $10 a bottle) and surprisingly complex and smooth. The nero d'avola is considerably less acidic than Zisola (the only other one I've ever tried), and made for an excellent sipping wine while also holding it's own with food. I've also become quite fond of Benziger Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot, but these are more expensive and somewhat harder to come by.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Crocuses


Are in bloom! Amazingly, they have popped up in the grass around the city. Spring is just around the corner... Here are 2 photos of the crocuses in our front yard.

Also, here are some belated photos of President's Day, when Alexis and I ate the yummiest sandwiches ever on the mall. It was so warm when we ate, and then the clouds you see behind me blew in and it quickly got cold, windy and rainy. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful day.





Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy Leap Year!

And the recipe for my favourite easy soup:

Yielding 2 meals for 1 person.

2 cups of chicken stock + some extra liquid to top up at the end.
Beef, cut into bite-sized slices.
Half an onion, chopped.
2 small potatoes, chopped (I leave the skin on)
Kale, chopped
Carrot, peeled and chopped
1 dried whole chili, cleaned of seeds
Herbs to taste

Sautee the onions in the soup pot and add the beef to brown it. Add the stock at room temperature and deglaze the bottom of the pot. Toss in the potatoes, carrot, and kale. Add the chili pepper and seasoning; I use 2 bay leaves and some dried thyme (because those are my favourite flavours and the only herbs I've invested in for my short stay). Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook it for 20-45 minutes, until the flavours are blended. I like it cooked longer rather than shorter so that the starch from the potatoes thickens the broth a little.

Very fast prep time, and you can substitute pretty much anything for any of the ingredients based on what's available!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Things that brighten my day:

Sluggy. If you're ever bored, read the the archives! That's what I did for a whole summer while I scanned those infamous liner notes.

ICHC in spite of it's stealing internet memes from other, more established sites. Sorry, A. It's too funny to ignore just because it steals.

Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries.


This silly image makes me laugh for no good reason every time I look at it:


Engrish.com has occasionally made me laugh to tears.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Delicious Food

Any of you who know me, know that I love food. It is indeed among my favourite things. Here is a list of some of the great meals I've eaten in the last few days:

Last Thursday Niyati and I went for tapas and sangria at Jaleo's in Bethesda. We had all sorts of good things... Endives filled with oranges and goat cheese, duck confit with clementine sauce, bacon-date fritters (best thing ever!), sauteed mushroom, salted tuna with cucumber and tomato... and for desert, a wonderful custard and just-right coffee.

On Friday, for lunch, I made seaweed salad with rice vermicelli, 2 kinds of seaweed (I don't remember which at the moment: the clear kind and dark green skinny strips), sesame oil, sesame seeds, chili oil, and some rice vinegar. Quick to make, healthy, and very tasty.

On Saturday I made pan-fried snapper with garlic mashed potatoes and kale cooked with sesame and chili oil. The snapper was melt-in-my mouth tender and buttery. Kale is one of my new favourite vegetables! Versatile and tasty.

Yesterday I made wild rice pilaf with chicken. I made it sort of like my mom taught me, but with boneless-skinless thighs and I cooked it on the stove-top instead of in the oven. It could have cooked a few minutes more I think, but I was too hungry to wait! J also made some rye bread from scratch, which smelled heavenly all night.

Tonight I made pan-fried fresh brussels sprouts and yellow zucchini with garlic and dried chili flakes. I ate them with rye crackers with cream cheese, lox and tomatoes. Not a very intuitive combination, but I'd just arrived home from my pilates class and needed something easy.

Tomorrow I think I'll make soup with sliced, browned lean steak, kale, and potatoes. And maybe some chilies. I'm very much enjoying the chilies lately--they seem to add just enough heat to deepen the flavour without burning my mouth.


Finally, my favourite new blog is Bitten, by Mark Bittman. I've been a fan of his video series "The Minimalist" for a long time, and his recipes have inspired me often (most of my latest cooking adventures have been inspired by him, in fact!). I'm also inspired by Whole Foods... I really wish they would move up to Canada.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

IKEA museum

This afternoon we got coffee and wandered around IKEA. J had to return a purchase, so we decided to hang out for a while. It really felt like wandering through a museum as we went around all the displays. In spite of the fact that it was crowded beyond belief, we both enjoyed wandering and talking and critiquing.

We also went to a few open houses in Greenbelt, where J wants to move. The townhouses are not big, but they are quaint and welcoming. One of the places we looked at was on the end of a row and backed 2 sides against a forest. It had a big garden and a nice kitchen. Even though it was smaller than the other good one, the location/view were a total seller for me.

Tonight I'm looking forward to relaxing and finally learning to play Settlers of Catan, drinking wine, and watching lost. Tomorrow there is a Sacred Harp singing in Alexandria, but I'm not sure if I feel like trekking out there. It would be nice to spend a Sunday wandering in my neighbourhood and relaxing in a cafe for the afternoon. I already have my plane ticket to go to the Western Mass. singing in a couple of weeks, and I know that will be really wonderful. Maybe I can wait until then for my next fix...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New York: Chapter 4


On Sunday morning in New York I was very excited to spend some time at a new cafe that we passed by on Saturday in Williamsburg. We went inside and met the owners on Saturday, and I immediately vowed to come back when I could stomach some coffee. And it was well worth it.

The cafe is called El Beit and they have the first Clover coffee machine that I've seen. I read about it a little while ago in this NY Times article, and was fascinated by the innovations in coffee making.

My cup of clover coffee was delicious. Nuanced and flavourful without being too strong or overpowering. Also, it was surprisingly not very acidic--very smooth feeling. It was also great fun to watch the barrista make it for me.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Afternoon

While I'm still a little sick (and very hoarse), I'm finally feeling like I'm on the mend. This morning J and I walked over to the farmer's market right when they opened at 10 (lazy farmers sleeping so late!). I finally caved and bought some lactaid pills, and I came home from the market with some delicious tangy yogourt and cheddar in addition to my usual eggs. I'm so excited to eat yogourt again!

One thing I've been really pining for here in DC is my favourite radio station, CKUA. I've tried many tricks and haven't been able to get the WMV plugin that's required to play the online broadcast on my mac to work properly, but Jenny has a PC and today basking in the nostalgia of the Old Disc Jockey. Man, this show just makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over. I'm sure I'll spend the rest of the day smiling because of it.

That said, if anyone has had success getting the Flip4Mac plugin to work with OS 10.5 for the CKUA site, drop me a note and let me know how you did it. I'll keep searching.

Ahhhh Sarah Vaughn singing "Black Coffee" in 1958 at the Newport Jazz Festival... so wonderful...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ugh, sick.

It seems that the bug I successfully fought off before my trip to New York found a way past my defenses. I'm sick, whiney, and mopey. I've been down since Wednesday though, so hopefully I'll be over it very soon. I missed to 2 days of work, so I think all that extra rest has been good for me. J is also sick; it looks like pinkeye so I'm staying away from her (just a little).

In spite of our maladies, we went for potluck dinner with J's games night friends (sans games) for an asian feast and good conversation. It was a wonderful evening.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

New York: Chapter 3

After tea we went back to Lex's place and napped for a bit, then we went out to Pete's Candy Store in Williamsburg for some drinks and music. We picked this bar because the music was free and it was in walking distance.

When we got there, Bob Wiseman was just setting up. We were a little unsure of what it would be like. It was a very involved stage setup for such a small room (only seated about 14 people or so) and he was wearing some odd clothes. However, the show turned out to be excellent! He's a filmmaker and singer/songwriter and he accompanied his films as they were projected onto a screen on the stage. He's going to be in Edmonton in March, and I highly recommend checking out his show!

Also, he toured Europe with Feist, who he met in Cafe Mosaics!

The second performer was Jason Trachtenberg, who I wasn't so fond of at first, but who really grew on me by the end of the set. He did a great version of "She Loves You" in addition to several of his own songs. I guess he normally tours with a family group that makes music based on slides of strangers that they pick up second hand. Pretty neat idea, I'd like to see the full show sometime.

All in all, it made for an excellent (and cheap) evening of great entertainment!

Monday, February 11, 2008

New York: Chapter 2

After dinner Alexis and I went to a great little bar called Burp Castle. This bar is monk themed, with beautiful murals on the walls. There are little signs all over that say things like "The monks value silence," and if you talk too loud people shush you! We giggled and "shhhhhed" a lot.

After Burp Castle we went to a different bar and drank more, but I was kinda drunk by that point and now I don't remember what it was called. After that I think we went home and slept soundly and drunkenly.

On Saturday we got up and ate breakfast at Egg, it was delicious. Then we walked to the farmer's market and I met some of Lex's friends who work there. After that we went and walked in central park for a couple of hours, which was totally fantastic! The park is big and beautiful even though it's winter.

After the park we went and had tea and scones at Alice's Tea Cup, which was absolutely lovely.

New York: Chapter 1



I arrived in New York at about 3pm on Friday afternoon. The bus ride was easy, clean, and comfortable for the $35 round trip fee. Alexis didn't get off work until 5, so I took the subway over to the neighbourhood where she works and wandered around for a couple of hours.

The NY subway, living up to rumours from my DC friends, is crowded, claustrophobic and smelly. I even saw a rat there (the first rat I've ever seen!). It's also considerably more complicated than the DC system, but cheaper.

Alexis' building is just off 5th avenue near Central Park. I walked up and down 5th avenue, which was pretty cool. I visited the Apple Store, which was very cool (lived up to everything I'd read about it). I walked past the Trump tower and many designer stores.

One thing that really impressed me was the way that the buildings are so close together, like a very tall wall. There are all sorts of really interesting looking buildings, growing up with odd angles and different colours all pressed in right next old historic churches.



Alexis and I met up at 5 and headed to her place to drop off my stuff and then go for dinner. We had happy hour drinks at a great little bar, then ate at Sea (a Thai restaurant where they filmed an episode of Sex and the City).

More to follow soon...

Friday, February 8, 2008

New York New York

Today I leave for New York! I'm all packed (pretty much) and ready to go. Can't wait to spend (almost) 3 FULL DAYS with Lex!! It's been years since we've had the chance to see so much of each other... and in New York!! Yay!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Bugs in the House

Strike one against DC. Jenny keeps telling me they are totally harmless, and I do believe her. But we've found 4 of these beetles in the last 2 days (not counting the one that crawled out of my dinner on my birthday). Maybe they are harmless, but they are at least twice the size of any bug I've seen in Edmonton. Ugh. My skin crawls just thinking about it.

On the upside, I'm leaving tomorrow morning for a weekend in New York with Alexis! I'm sosososososo excited. We are going to have a grand time do cheap/free things around the city.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Silly Viruses

I am quite sure that there is some virus attempting to invade my body. So far I'm not too sick, and hopefully the imbibing of much orange juice today will stave off the invasion and leave me healthy for my trip to New York this weekend!

On another note, I finally caved and bought a new iPod today. Terry gave me puppy eyes because he's sad to see me give up on the iPod he bought me for x-mas 3 years ago, but it was time. This new one is great! It's small and green and holds twice as much music. I named it Krunkteef.

I also bought an album by Yael Naïm, who did the song for the MacBook Air commercial (with the laptop in the folder). J and I were listening to her online on the weekend and I decided she would be the perfect present for Krunkteef. I definitely recommend the album.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Confronting History II

As I thought about this topic a little more today, I realised that I think the US is already doing what the author of this article suggested. Perhaps that's why he suggested it for Germany...

Most of the recognition of slavery that I've seen does in fact focus on the people who worked to help the ancestors of slaves build a less oppressive world: Martin Luther King Jr day and Black History Month to name just 2 that I've experienced since moving here. However, I haven't yet encountered any holidays or monuments that focus on the victims. Perhaps I'm not far enough South... Send me some links of different holidays and monuments if you know them.

Confronting History

The African-American work song session at the FSGW workshop has led to much discussion here among my friends on the nature of racial politics in the US and their failings in properly addressing their history of slavery in a way that would significantly improve race relations.

I don't know enough about it to really comment, but David sent me this interesting article on how Germany has attempted to come to terms with their horrific past.

I am also reminded of what Dr. Gramit said to me a few years ago when I was really struggling with a reading from Adorno in which he focused on a single note in a Beethoven symphony as the turning point of modernity: Adorno was a German who was writing just after the Holocaust, and in the wake of such unfathomable events he was searching for whatever he could find to justify German existence.