Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sounds: Pokey LaFarge + South City Three

His name is Pokey. He is from Missouri. The end.


Excuse me for a minute while I go find my socks, they were just blown off by that harmonica playing. Holy. 

I discovered Pokey and the South City Three (a reference to St. Louis) this week on NPR, and I have been quite taken every since.  To quote NPR; he came of age as an all-around rural wanderer who found his voice in roving packs of fellow buskers. Naturally, he keeps one eye on tradition, but--true to form for an adventure-seeking free spirit--his is always looking forward, too. 

I knew it. Fellow wanderer. That is why my heart quickly began to beat in rhythm with the songs.



Friday, July 29, 2011

Breaking News From the Farm: Basil Lives!

In a miracle of what seems like biblical proportions; my basil plants have been resurrected.  Switching from humming Bob Dylan to old spirituals was probably the key-- Sweet Low . . .Sweet Chariot.  Between the scorching heat, summer bugs, and a gang of outlaw rabbits and squirrels my basil plants were nothing more than sticks in dirt.  I had all but given up hope for a nice big batch, or even a tablespoon of pesto.  But I still watered them, I still talked and sang to them, I still tried to psychoanalyze why they weren’t growing.

One morning last week, I walked out back to check up on my dear little herbies and pick some rosemary, which is definitely the show off the bunch, always growing so lovely. And what stopped my heart and made me blink twice? Leaves! I saw actual little leaves dangling ever so dainty on one of my three basil plants. I had to double check to make sure it just wasn’t an invading weed. I bent down really close, my nose almost touching the plant, and the sweet smell of basil filled my nostrils.  Hands were clapped. Then a couple days later, another one of the plants show signs of life, and this morning I almost dropped the watering can when I looked at my cinnamon basil. I was one day from pulling that plant up. I never was able to get anything from it, if little buds ever did appear they will quickly scavenge off by critters.  It looked so sad and barren that I was planning to just relieve it from its misery. But now, it even has little cinnamon basil leaves growing.

Now they are all growing and flourishing, like gangbusters. Maybe there will be pesto after all!

So the moral of the basil is don’t give up. 





Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Wilderness Without Words

I seem to be at a lost for inspiration.  To quote George Orwell, I feel smothered under drudgery. All I seem to be able to write about lately is I went here, I ate this. And though I deeply appreciate the 1,2,3 . .  (counting on my fingers). . . .7 people that I know read this little blog with any kind of regularity,  I know that my eating habits are not keeping you up at night tingling with delight and suspense.


Every morning in between two specific stops on the Red Line, I have to consciously silence a part of myself, the wild barefoot girl with the tambourine and flowers in her hair, just to make it through a day of a job that I am too stubborn to quit. I keep telling myself and everyone around me, sometimes through gritted teeth and eyes heavy with tears,  that I need to see this project through, I’m in too deep, I need to finish, I cannot fail another thing in my life.


Stories used to fill my head and words used to come so easily to me,  a coping mechanism that grew from a lonely childhood. But now they seem so faraway that it scares me sometimes that I won’t ever be able to summon them back.  Maybe I took them too much for granted.


So tonight as I sit here starting at the computer screen feeling creatively drained and  inspired only by my disdain of people who talk on their cellulars at the gym, while working out at the gym, I start to think more about this so called thing called inspiration, the stimulation of the human mind.  Like many things in life I wish that it would just descend on me, like manna from heaven, as if I was anointed or chosen. 

But when has that ever happened?


Maybe I need to look for it, seek and scratch and claw for it.  I need to tempt golden words and brave stories to come out of their hiding places. What this exactly entails I don’t know, but scribbled on scrape piece of paper, the following  spontaneous list was composed:



I also have to tell myself, until I believe it, that perfection and failure are not the only two measurements of life.


What inspires you? How do you find inspiration? What reminds your heart that you are real? 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Song(s) of the Week: September Sounds.

September is historically a horrible month for me. Details do not need be explained, just know that I usually fear the ninth month of year more than a pack of wild emus.

But this year the September curse will be broken.  Why this sudden declaration of courage and determination? I have reinforcements a ‘coming.  All within 30 calendar days I will be seeing:

Dropkick Murphys at Fenway Stadium in Boston. I was able to snag a ticket to one of their sold out shows at Fenway the weekend that I will be up in Boston. No joke, I have seen this band almost once a year since 1998, back when they were an opening band. Now they are headlining at Fenway.  I have to throw in a little rock n’roll every now and then just so you don’t think that I have gone too folksy. But never fear, the banjo does pop up every now and then just for kicks (and the bagpipes and accordion and tin whistle). A portion of the proceeds from the concerts are going to the Massachusetts 9/11 Fund, which helps support families of victims of 9/11 throughout the state, and also the Claddaugh fund which is DKM’s own charity which they use to benefit various causes. Classy fellas.


The Low Anthem at the trendy 9:30 Club. I completely adore this band. They are the perfect, lying in the summer grass with your eyes closed, music.   This band makes me ok with Rhode Island being a real state (that is where they are from).  Delaware on the other hand, still not convinced.


The Avett Brothers + Flogging Molly at the HFstival outdoor music festival. Dr. Dog and Minus the Bear will be there too.  Flogging Molly I have seen many times before, when they were also still an opening band, man, I am old, but Irish sing-a-longs never get old. It will be my first time seeing the brothers Avett, and needless to say I am pretty obnoxiously excited. 

Avett Brothers

Flogging Molly

Laura Marling at the Sixth and I Synagogue. I love Sixth and I, not only is it an active synagogue, but they are also a cultural center bringing in musicians, authors, community leaders, etc. . . .and they have a food truck.  I have been there for religious and cultural events, and even through I am not Jewish, the warmth and welcoming I got there, kind of makes me I wish I was just so I could be a part of the place.

Laura Marling is the darling (yeah for rhymes) of the Brit-folk community. I would pretty much give up most things in my life to have her voice, both singing voice and storytelling voice.  She started with the band Noah and Whale before going solo, and members of Mumford & Sons used to play in her back up band.  Music is the language of my soul, so seeing a musician in a church is so beautifully fitting.


Les Miserables at the Kennedy Center (tickets still pending).  I will sing along. I will shed a tear (especially during this song).  I will positively want to climb the barricade and join in the fight. Oh, Marius!

All in favor of changing September to Rock-tember say Aye! 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Entertaining: Notes on Kansas City BBQ

I love entertaining, but before every dinner party or backyard BBQ there is a moment when I just want to call everyone and tell them not to come. This weekend that moment came on Sunday at 6:47 AM.  But let’s back up a little.

I spent many of years in Kansas City where I developed a snobbery about BBQ. I know that there are different ways to BBQ, different meats, different sauces, and I haven’t tried every single one on the planet, but none of the ones that I have tried have taken the glory off of the good old KC stuff. Maybe it has more to do with memories of eating it with family or friends or maybe it is just the sauce.

During my recent trip to Amish Country I was apparently high from too many baked goods when I came up the idea of having a Kansas City BBQ. No hamburgers or hot dogs here, just slow cooked meat covered in tangy sauce, all the fixings, and my 4857 attempt to make a pie.

I deemed it an event worthy of the title hootenanny* and sent out the invite.

And then I remembered just how long good BBQ takes.   Preparations for Sunday dinner started on Saturday. I don’t cook meat for myself all that often, which might explain why I turn into the biggest hippie whenever I do.  As I was preparing, cleaning and trimming that huge hunk of brisket there was this moment of great gratitude for the cow. Since I believe that there is a story behind almost everything I thought about the cow, who once was alive, but no longer was, and how this circle of life allows me to celebrate with my friends.  Weird, I know, but to me it was a lovely thought.  Then I (accidentally) sliced open my finger (nowhere near the meat), not so lovely.

Because I am skeptical of any BBQ sauce in a bottle on the East Coast, I made my own sauce and rub (I am such a show off).  Kansas City style BBQ sauce is tomato based and has this tangy sweetness to it, I think that I got pretty close to my favorite neighborhood BBQ joint back home.  I let the rub marinate into the beef overnight.



I set my alarm to wake up at 6:00 (on a Sunday. What?)  so I could start slow cooking the meat. The meat had to cook for 8-10 hours, and the oven was going to be used for other fixings, so I set up a couple of slow cookers.  I then proceeded to trip the fuses in the kitchen 3 times, which meant 3 trips to the fuse box in the scary basement where I somehow got  myself in cobwebs, which of course led to the I am covered in cobwebs freak out dance.  After seeing sparks from one of the slower cookers, I put my thinking cap on and figured out that was the problem.   I carefully put aside the crock pot of death and was able to fit all the meat into the other one.

Realizing that I do in fact have the power and obvious talent to drain electrically from the house during one of the hottest days of the year and/or burn the house down with faulty appliances, I decided that it might be a wise decision to make the strawberry rhubarb pie then too, just to get it over with.  True to form, I misread some of the crust recipe and made a huge enough mistake that I was sure that I could hear my great Aunt Theresa, the legendary family pie baker and fancy hat wearer, screaming at me from heaven, in Hungarian. (Spoiler Alert: I was able to savage the pie). 


This is moment, covered in cobwebs, BBQ sauce and flour, I wanted to cancel the whole thing.  But I didn’t.

In fact, it was a lovely evening, which of course everyone knew it would be. Due to the extreme heat we ended up eating Sunday dinner family style inside with a couple of tables pushed up together. We passed the bowls and platters of food around the table, peeled husks off of roasted corn and drunk cool lemonade from mason jars.  I have always wanted to have a big a family, and looking along the table for set for 12, I realized that I already kind of do.



*yes, I know that the term hootenanny usually refers to a group of folky type peoples coming together to play music, but I like to take the urban dictionary approach:

hoot·en·an·ny/ˈho͞otnˌanē/ : A party, most generally one that is, well, chock full of hoot, with just a little bit of nanny.

Book Review and New Life Quest:






Book Review:

This last week during evening commutes and baking a pie I read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children , but Ransom Rigg (um, awesome name?). From Barnes and Noble:

A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. And a strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children who once lived here—one of whom was his own grandfather—were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a desolate island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.


Image from author's website


Ooooohhhhhh!

What I found to be the most intriguing thing about the book is that Rigg uses real vintage found photographs throughout the story. Love. Peculiar is a fabulous word for not only many of the characters in the book, but also the book itself;  A little paranormal, a little fantasy, a little quirky, a little charming, a little teenage angst.  Think of David Wallace's  Big Fish and cross it with X-men.  Although, honestly, I think I loved the idea behind the book  a little bit more than the actual story, the writing is solid and the storyline is still pretty interesting.. On a scale of 1-5, I give it a 3.978. But since 2 people have called me up in the last week just to tell me that they don’t like Steinbeck, I don’t know if my ratings are worth that much.

New Life Quest:

This book also gave me a new life quest: to become an urban decay explorer/photographer:



Add it to the list!

Local Eats: We The Pizza

Fridays are usually my craziest days at work so when I got a text mid morning from a friend offering to rescue me from my cubicle for lunch, I jumped at the chance. We don't have a break room in my specific office, just the most depressing cafeteria in the basement the building. It has no windows, just old tables and upholstered chairs and booths and those tables and chairs and booths are filled with people all wearing the same black and navy suits.  Its like being stuck in the Matrix.

We The Pizza is Good Stuffs Eatery's little brother, they both have the same poppa, Spike Mendelsohn. The homemade soda were delightful, the pizza pretty good, and the brief break away from work was the bee's knees.

Local Travels: Sweeney Todd at Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center

Seeing a performance at  the outdoor Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center is a DC summer tradition, even when it is hotter than a sauna in Hades.  Last Friday I caught the National Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. A Musical Thriller.




Sweeney Todd is a Stephen Sondheim musical based on a Christopher Bond play that is loosely based on a nineteenth century story by the name of The String of Pearls.  The original story describes Todd pretty much as a monster, but  Bond and later Sondheim turn him more into a tragic hero that is motivated by heartbroken revenge instead of greed.

Long story short, Todd seeks to avenge the death of his wife by killing those he feels are responsible (and maybe a few others that get in the way), and the bodies are baked into Mrs. Lovett’s meat pies. 


 It would be so easy to make this story a gore-fest (people filled pies, hello), but the center of the musical are the very human emotions of love and revenge, which we can all relate to in one way or another.  How we allow these emotions to control our lives is completely up to us. Will we allow sadness, bitterness and hate to destroy us, or allow love to change us into something more than we currently are? Deep thoughts, I know.

Another lovely thing about Wolf Trap? Picnicking! Especially when you are sitting by Miss M, who shares her quinoa salad and roasted veggies. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hootennany Preview

Homemade BBQ sauce!

It's been a busy weekend and it isn't even over yet. Look for a plethora of posts come Monday. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Some Days You Just Have To Squeal in Public

I know that I am probably the only one in the sound of my blog that is excited about this, but:

Wilco Soda Pop Bottles!!

Crazy girl doing jazz hands in aisle 5, yeah that was me.

Cooking Class: The Perfect Pie Crust

I love to bake, but I am not very good at it. For every pretty plate of cookies or darling cupcakes I bring to a party there are 17 batches that ended up in the trash. My part in the brownie controversy of 2002 is pretty legendary.   Baking is a science, a precise science and let’s just say that I am more of a liberal arts kind of girl. I have trouble following directions and baking demands that you have to put in all the ingredients in the exact amount and the right time. Oh, and reading the recipe all the way through before you start, yeah that might help too.
Pie crust has been an enemy in the kitchen for too many years, even when I read and follow the recipe word for word. This is so heartbreaking since I love making and eating pie. Store bought never, ever, taste as good as homemade. Plus, it just seems like something you should be able to do as an American, bake a pie.   Different crusts I have tried have turned out dry, soggy, burnt, too thick, too thin and just plain gross. Now, I just admit defeat and buy pre-made crusts with my head held low, keeping  my fingers crossed that my fillings make up for cheating.
When I heard that this month’s cooking class was on pie crusts, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could slay this dragon for once and for all. The class was taught by a professionally trained chief, ‘cause after all, we are fancy.  
My notes on the subject of pie crusts:
Pie crust is like a 13 year old boy. It just wants to be left alone to chill. Touch and bug it too much and it will leave you upset and disappointed. Our teacher's mantra was Rest, Chill, Under-mix Resting and chilling is apparently very important in the land of perfect pies.  There is a lot of science behind it, something about the fats not breaking down. This means that good pies take time. Our pie maker usually starts on the crust the day before it is going to be served. Then the actual pie day is more about assembling than it is about running around the kitchen getting yourself covered in flour. This was all news to me, I usually mix my dough, roll it out, curse a lot, dump my pie filling in, and throw it in the oven all in the same afternoon.
Practice makes perfect. She encouraged us that we when we are trying to cook/bake something new, we should make the same recipe over and over and over again.  When we jump from recipe to recipe we don’t learn what we are doing right or wrong. It took her years to master some her pies and breads, but now with one taste or touch she immediately knows what’s off.  
Be in tune with what you put in your body. Roll up our sleeves and  mix with our hands, add seasonings in with fingers.  Taste, taste, taste.
And maybe most important of all:
Organic cream tastes like butterflies and flowers and rainbows.
Peach and Blueberry Pie
 Melt in your mouth. 
I am going to try out her crust recipe this weekend for a (hopefully) pretty strawberry rhubarb pie. I’m really nervous. I may break out in hives.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sounds: Maps & Atlases

This song is lovely, but oh the video! It will be the most adorable thing you will see all week. Promise.

Israeli Caves by Maps & Atlases

Favorite Things: To Do Lists

Spend less money

And more time planning my future

Act instead of being acting upon

Stop waiting

For people, for things to happen, for emails,

For my life to start

Trust myself

Trust others

Eat more fruits and vegetables

And less chemistry experiments

Take my vitamins

Make my mom proud

Spend less time on the internet

And more time in life

Spend less time watching stories

And more time writing stories

Or maybe even creating stories

But probably not recreating stories

Unless costumes are involved

Then maybe

Read more good books

Where truth can be found in between the lines

Say yes more instead of maybe, or I’ll see, or no

Unless I should really, for the sake of sanity, say no

And then not be afraid to say no.

Look for more opportunities

Spend less time sitting alone

Go on more trips to places I have never been before

Instead of sitting in my room where I have been before

Plenty of times before

Take more pictures

Write more stories

Sing more songs

Capture life more

Dream more and bigger

And make those dreams come true

Run toward things

Instead of running away from things

Less hurt

More joy

Be okay

Monday, July 18, 2011

Favorite Photos: London, One Last Time

I feel that I post about the UK too much, that I am turning into one of those people that goes on and on about a place and you just want them to shut up already, like anyone from California or Texas.  I have loads of other travel stories and pictures from loads of other places, even a bunch here in America. And I want to get to those.   My calendar for the end of Summer and the Autumn months is already beginning to fill up with airport visits, which I am sure as the sun shines will have their own tales of adventure and too many pictures of things I ate. But I'm not quite there yet.
 I am having a hard time deleting pictures from my last trip to London from my camera, even with knowing that they are backed up on Valentine (my computer, she’s lovely) and my external hard drive.  I will probably just end up getting another memory card.  I made the trip across the Atlantic with my older sister and truth be told we aren’t as close as sisters should be. Sometimes I think that we are too different of people, we have lived separate lives for too long to ever have the relationship that we both really want.  We took this opportunity to be out of our normal lives and wander down haunted streets and through old churches together trying to get to know each other again.
Below, I give you the last picture of London, until I visit again, which will probably have to wait until after France and Peru.*  I had forgotten about this shot until last night, when my memory card was once again full and I had to selectively delete pictures. 

We were walking past the Tower of London early one morning, a Tuesday to be exact, and captured this. It isn’t touched up at all, no photoshop or fancy filters, just the rawness of a perfect quiet moment.
( For perspective: the bridge in the photo is the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London is directly on the left, out of the shot.)
* I am committing in black and white and to all the internets that I will go visit X in Peru. Hopefully this will make it true come.

People of the {Metro} Underground



As she leaned her head against the window, the evening train creaked along the underbelly of the world above, a sad song made its way from the iPod through the earphones and into her head.  Her eyes opened with a start and  she gasped for her breathe as it seemed that  all the air in her lungs had been sucked out. She had almost forgotten that song and the boy who once played it for her.
---
He turned the page slowly on the book that he was pretending to read. The train was crowded and the bag of another passenger was leaning awkwardly against his shoulder, invading the bubble of personal space. He lifted his head and made eye contact with a pretty girl half way up the car. He should of glanced away, but didn’t. He didn’t know her, but the way she bit her lip was so familiar
---
Her tears dripped from her face unto the train platform. She didn’t even try to wipe them away, as strangers wearing their important badges from their important jobs looked on.
---

He balanced the tambourine on his left foot as he brushed the hair out of his face. People came out of the busy metro station and walked past his empty guitar case without a second glance, their eyes wide and fixated on the illuminated screens of their blackberries and smart phones.  He caught pieces of conversations;  dinner plans, lovers’ quarrels, the tail end of business deals, details of lives that he will never know.   He pulled out the harmonica from his back pocket, took a deep breath and blew.
---
Looking at the crisscrossing lines on the subway map she wished that the stops and stations would have names like,  “Home,”  “The Love of Your Life,” “Happiness,” “The Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich,” then she would have a better idea where to get off, where not be lost.

.

Song of the Week: The Clash

The other day while I was exiting the Metro a gentleman, probably in his 50s dressed in khaki pants and a polo shirt stopped me, "You look a little too young to be listening to The Clash." It caught me off guard. I looked down at the iPod in my hand and sure enough the very distinctive London Calling album cover was displaying on my handheld glowing screen. With a smile I answered, "I look a lot younger than I am, and is anyone really too young or too old to be listening to The Clash."  "Good point," he answered back and we parted ways on the platform.

Whenever people ask me about music I usually bring up The Clash to gauge their reaction so I know where this conversation is going. If they know The Clash, then we can really talk about music. If  not well, it might be a short conversation.   They don't even really have to like them, just knowing about these fellas from across the pond is a good starting place. I think that it is really unfair to ask anyone their favorite bands or favorite songs, there is just too much out there. Tastes grow and stretch, one band leads to another, different times in your life need different soundtracks. But the Clash has been a pretty common melody with me ever since I discovered them as a teenager who could never really fit in.  Then I discovered that not fitting in can be one of the most beautiful of all things.

White Man (In Hammersmith Palais) by The Clash

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Local Travels: Banjo Festival at The Birchmere + bonus music essay

Old Time Banjo Festival
The Birchmere
Alexandria, VA

I went to a banjo festival.

(I will pause now so you can get all the Deliverance, hillbilly, rat tailed banjo boys jokes out of your system. Go ahead. I know you have at least one. Ok? Let us continue.)

When you want genuine music - music that will come right home to you like a bad quarter, suffuse your system like strychnine whiskey, go right through you like Brandreth's pills, ramify your whole constitution like the measles, and break out on your hide like the pinfeather pimples on a picked goose - when you want all this, just smash your piano, and invoke the glory-beaming banjo! - Mark Twain

More than you probably ever care to know about the banjo:

The banjo came to America from Africa via the West Indies slave trade. This instrument made
traditionally from gourds was very common in early African-American culture. In the early to mid 1800s minstrel players introduced it into their routines, which sadly often would demean and caricatured the African American culture. These minstrels toured throughout the States and also made it to Europe, where the banjo was picked up with great success by the Europeans. At the turn of the 20th century the banjo was rapidly becoming popular in cosmopolitan America;  in New York it was the second most popular parlor instrument after the piano. Its influence can be heard in Scott Joplin's ragtime numbers (Did you know his mother played the banjo? She did.) and Gershwin. That's right Gershwin, just listen to Rhapsody in Blue, the tenor banjo is there. The banjo made its way into many of the early swing and jazz bands. Djanjo Reinhardt, probably one of the great jazz guitarists, played the banjo. He was of gypsy blood, just had to point that out.

Whatever respectability it seemed to gain, the banjo also remained a constant in the homegrown vernacular music of the South, Appalachia and even followed the cowboys out West. After World War II, this fine instrument found new audiences with the  explosions of jazz, blue grass, and folk music. And now with the current folkster (folk + hipster) community booming we are again seeing more and more banjos pop up in bands that are being played on alternative rock n'roll radio stations. Brilliant.

I share this bit of rapid music trivia because it helps to explain why the banjo just get under my skin (in a good way, not like a rash) and stays there. To me,  it has a very blues,  man of constant sorrows, beautiful heartbreaking reality to it. Whenever I hear a banjo in any song I know that there is is going to be a little bit of sadness there, but then you start clapping your hands and stomping (not just tapping) your feet. Does the banjo sing about fast cars and big homes and explicit escapades? No, it is a little bit more about finding yourself alone in the gutter, picking yourself up and getting on with your life and hitting up a couple of hootenannies along the way.  That's really what all good music is about.

The festival

The night of the banjo was held at The Birchmere which is a mix between a country honky tonk and a jazz club, which, actually is pretty fitting.  We ate pulled pork sandwiches while waiting for the music to begin and there was an Elvis mural in the bathroom. Nice.


I don't normally take pictures in rooms of rest, but I also don't run into Elvis that often in them either.

The official name of the festival was the Mike Seeger Commemorative 5th Annual Old Time Banjo Festival . Mike Seeger was a local boy and very well know folk musician who passed away in 2009 . The festival was organized by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer who opened the show. It was a very intimate setting, they chatted with us while tuning and shared stories of the songs they played.



Banjos played:
Cello banjo
Vintage 1916 six string banjo
5 string banjo
Ukulele banjo

The Hot Seats
The Hot Seats are a blue grass group from Richmond, VA, that were the youngsters of the evening, keeping the music alive for the next generation and so what not. Two banjos, a fiddle and a washboard? How could that NOT be great? Their short set was filled with intensity and humor, respecting old time and blue grass music, but not by treating in like a relic on a shelf but by showing it off and adding their own voice to it.
Fiddler in motion!

Instruments played:
Banjos
Bass banjo (it was the size of a kid's wadding pool. Seriously.)
Fiddle
Stand up bass (I think everyone in band played the bass )
Drums
Guitar
Mandolin
Washboard

During the intermission we (A and I ) had a discussion about exactly what is old time music. It seems to refer to music that is distinctively American. We may have have borrowed influences from Irish jigs or African spirituals, but we as little whippersnappers of a country were the ones that blended it all together and then started to make our own hoots and hollers. The term "old time" music didn't pop up until the 1920's, so maybe it recalls music that has long ago roots. In other words, we kind of still don't know how to define old time music is, we just know we like it.

Buddy  Wachter
Two words: Banjo virtuoso. Amazing. I don't know how anyone could strum that fast without setting the place on fire. He took us on a musical history lesson of the banjo, playing everything from ragtime  to blue grass to classical to swing.



Banjos played:
Tenor banjo

Bruce Molsky
Mr. Molsky is a renowned fiddler and banjo player who didn't really start his music career until he was in his forty. Live your dreams, man, live your dreams! He played a lovely collection of songs with both is fiddle and his banjo, but not at the same time.



Banjos played:
Gourd banjo with gut strings
5 string?
The fiddle, (not a banjo, but still amazing!)

Closing time
The show was closed with all the musicians coming on stage to perform a couple of numbers. 6 banjos playing at the same time. Yep. Minds were blown.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Favorite Things: To Kill a Mockingbird

Monday was the 51st anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird being published.  IMHO, Mockingbird is one of, if not the, greatest American novels. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain can make a really good claim for that title, but that is for a different day.
To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most well-read book on my shelves. Every now and then I will slip it in my bag and just carry it around for a while, carefully fingering dog eared pages and reading favorite passages softly aloud  If I am ever blessed to have a daughter, she will be named Scout (so let it be known), and at least for a little while, when she is too young to rebel, I will dress her in overalls.  

The story found in those pages is remarkable and full. I love books that aren’t afraid to touch upon unkind things. The world and history and our lives can be more than unkind at times and in the written word we seek to find a connection, something to hold on to.  But Harper Lee, and the characters she created don’t leave us wallowing around in the injustices and hate in the world. Good and evil will probably always coexist.  We roam our little pieces of earth daily trying to balance out the good and bad in the world and within ourselves.    Some people allow evil, injustice and ignorance to destroy them, but others, like our little Scout and her wise pops Atticus, have enough courage and faith in humanity to overcome a lot of the harshness of life and living.  
Favorite quotes:
They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself.  The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience. 
I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.
Favorite scene from the amazing movie, which makes me cry every time: Scout defuses a lynch mob:

I wish people will stop speculating that the Beckhams named their new daughter Harper, after Harper Lee. Please, like Mr. and Mrs. Posh Spice even read.

I Made This: Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Blizzard

What do you do when you really want ice cream, but the Clinton Kelly in your head is screaming that  you cannot leave your house in your yoga pants? Put on real pants and go the store? NO! Seriously, who does that? The correct answer is  you make soft serve out of random things in your kitchen.

Oh She Glows, is one of my favorite (vegan) recipe blogs. Obviously, I am not a vegan but I don't discriminate when it comes to food, except for eggs. Ick. Angela Liddon the creator of the blog has many fantastic recipes using soft serve made out of frozen bananas. It's cold, the right texture and made out of bananas. Bananas.

Tonight I tried her Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch Blizzard, making a few minor changes reflecting what I did or did not have in my kitchen, 'cause remember, um, yoga pants. I used almonds instead of cashews, agave instead of maple syrup, whole wheat flour instead of brown teff flour and no chocolate chips or rice cereal.

To up the class factor, I layered all the peanut butter-banana goodness a in goblet. Amazing.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Blizzard

I only ate maybe half of it, but that means leftovers!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Words of Wisdom

As I was cleaning out an handbag,  I found a  slip of paper inside of the pockets. On it, written in my own handwriting, was the following:
The only good reason to rip up a book is to make a suit of armour to protect yourself against a prison gang.
I wish I could remember the context of me writing this statement,  there's got to be a story there. This also might explain why a couple of my friends joke about having a Bail Katherine Out of Jail fund. And just for the record, I don't ever intend on breaking the law, but you know, misunderstandings happen all the time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Favorite Photo: Cliffs of Moher


When going to Ireland, one must see the Cliffs of Moher (pronounced More), if for nothing else then to recite random quotes from The Princess Bride (Cliffs of Insanity= Cliffs of Moher ).  Inconceivable! We took a bus from Dublin to Galway, encountered the one and only cranky person in all of Ireland, walked up and down the same street 5 times looking for another bus, and sped along rocky narrow country roads to the cliffs while the bus driver whistled and hummed.  What captured my heart in Ireland was that there was always, always music somewhere. Whether it was from pubs with their doors open, or the street performers on every corner, or  the museum guard at the National Museum quieting singing “Foggy Dew.” Music is definitely the language of the Irish, it felt like home.

But back to the Cliffs. You see them in movies and in books and think, Oh, those are pretty, and go about  your life. But when you see them, and set foot on them, your breath is sucked out of you. They are peaceful and powerful all at the same time, kind of what I inspire to be. The path along the edge is lined with people and their cameras hoping to get the perfect shot to remember that day and show off to family and friends. I was one of the those souls, clicking my camera buttons as fast as I could, then I came across this chap sitting and writing. I quietly tucked my camera back into my bag and too sat down on the greenest grass I have ever seen and just took in the wonder around me. We spend our lifetimes and bank accounts building  skyscrapers, monuments and other tall and mighty things and Mother Nature shows us up every time.   

Song of the Week: William Elliott Whitmore

I got an email from my parents last week that ended with some words of wisdom: Listen to some good music that stirs your soul.  I gladly took this advice and gave William Elliott Whitmore and his new album, Field Songs, quite a few spins today. I don't know which breaks my heart more, his gravely revival tent old preacher man voice, or his beloved banjo. *

Mr. Whitmore is currently touring with some amazing music makers: The Low Anthem later in the Fall (you need to see this band, they will melt your face off in a good way) and Mark Lind and Douglas Sullivan from the Ducky Boys next week in Allston, MA (I played their album, Three Chords and the Truth, until the cd literally fell apart). Ahh, summer music.

 *What can I say, my Tennessee Scots-Irish forefathers must be controlling the music stations in my head as of late. Don't worry, I am sure the gypsies swinging from other branches in the family tree will take over soon.