Saturday, January 25, 2014

so you want to be a backup singer?

 
give me a wooden spoon and i'll sing out my soul.  it's true, i feel like i have way more soul than i might look like i have.  part of me thinks being a shoo bop girl would be fun.  or, minus the dancing, (which could also be fun) just blending with others around a microphone in the recording studio. this documentary was very insightful in terms of the voices that give our most popular entertainers their richness and verve.  you learn that, unfortunately, some were exploited for their voice and not given credit.  the overall tone of the movie is positive, however, with clips from famous songs and the history of backup singing in general. from gospel church choirs to artists like sting and michael jackson, "20 feet from stardom" is worth the watch.  plus, you can sing along and feel terribly hip doing so. 

les macarons

want a fun and challenging spot of color in your kitchen while you're waiting for spring?  try baking macarons.  they're not nearly as intimidating as i imagined.  a bit fussy? yes.  do you have to follow the science of baking?  without a doubt.  but these cookies are oh-so-rewarding when they turn out right.  i remember walking the streets of france two summers ago like it was today, three or four macarons in hand.  here at home, they are $1.50 each in french bakeries.  and now i know why--almond flour and labors of love.  even after only making them twice, i've learned some tips and tricks; everything from the fact that room temperature eggs really do matter and, that once on the cookie sheet, they need to sit for half an hour before baking so they develop the right shell. "melt in your mouth" is exactly the phrase what i want to use to describe how they taste right after they crumble, however cliché, especially when they are filled with lemon butter cream.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

hundreds...and millions

thanks to my friend who loans me favorite sections of the Oregonian, i now know the following: this month marks what would have been poet william stafford's 100th birthday.  to celebrate, OPB is featuring him on oregon art beat (tomorrow, thursday january 16th on channel 10 at 8:00 pm if you're local) AND the world's most expensive painting has just been purchased for $142.4 million dollars.  yes, art history enthusiasts, you read that correctly.  along with information on the auction and artist, the column also listed several other things you could do with $142.4 million dollars (repeating that here for emphasis).  drumroll please...you could have one painting OR you could purchase a tsunami safety and warning system for the entire country of indonesia.  hmm. that's well beyond the worth of even the mona lisa.  the debate seems to be centering on whether people like the painting or not (opinion is great as long as intelligence reigns; i like to teach my art students to use objective principles of art and design in their critiques) but my question, along with aesthetics, is more along the lines of how value is attached to pieces of art and if we have an ethical and moral responsibility when it comes to sums of money that could make sizeable dents in world hunger?  i'll let you decide...and feel free to weigh in here on what you think.  meanwhile, happy birthday to william stafford.  have any poems in his honor?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

off the beaten page

here is another idea i'm completely excited about:  the art of literary travel.  it is defined as the place where "literature, travel and friendship come together".  three of my favorite things!  terri peterson smith has written a book called "off the beaten page" where she gives suggestions for books and specific travel destinations.  my version?  read ______, then go_______, watch _______ and eat ___________.  (fill in your own blanks).  it was more than a little fun to see familiar photos on her blog www.offthebeatenpagetravel.com of not only st. remy, france but also sylvia beach's famed shakespeare & co. bookstore that sits not far from notre dame cathedral (i know, we walked and walked and walked...stopped for crepes and walked some more...it was worth it).  her website is www.terripetersonsmith.com.  what will your next combination be?

pairings to drool over

we pair foods and wines, so why not books?  especially when they end up coincidentally referencing one another (not all that surprising given the similar subject matter, but nonetheless fun!) one such combination then would have to be "bread and wine:  a love letter to life around the table" by shauna niequist with "thomas keller's bouchon bakery".  like i said:  drool.  (shauna uses great quotes to section her book.  two of my favorites, the first from winnie-the-pooh and the second from cs lewis.  " 'when you wake up in the morning, pooh,' said piglet at last, 'what's the first thing you say to yourself?' 'what's for breakfast?' said pooh.  'what do you say, piglet?' 'i say, i wonder what's going to happen exciting today?' said piglet.  pooh nodded thoughtfully.  'it's the same thing,' he said".--aa milne.  and "God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature.  that is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us.  we may think this rather crude and unspiritual.  God does not:  He invented eating.  He likes matter.  He invented it."--cs lewis. i could seriously work that into a deep and meaningful theology of breakfast, which i devoutly believe in.)  you can visit her blog at www.shaunaniequist.com.  she references thomas keller and i just happen to have his huge, heavy, brimming with deliciousness cookbook on my dining room table right now.  warning, if you look at bouchon bakery pictures (kudos to his photographer deborah jones) you will want to rush out and eat every french pastry in sight.  as i said to my friend, "does reading this book make me look fat?" incidentally, i copied down the recipes for both pain au chocolat and pain au raisin. www.bouchonbakery.com. yum.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

bethlehem star

i'm nothing if not curious.  always have been and always hope to be inquisitive about life.  my first reference to the bethlehem star was at age 4 when my cousins taught me the rubber cigar version of "we three kings".  when i heard the real version of the song, i took it literally, wondering, for an embarassingly long while, where "orient r" was on a map and which star was "yonder star"?  fast forward to this winter when i am preparing what is supposed to be a rather simple devotional thought for our school staff.  except i get on a tear about the star, this time as an adult.  my questions now become, "what was the star?  was it a planet?  what is the difference between astrology and astronomy?  how can a star just stop?  who were the wise men anyway?" and i look up references online which go to some pretty crazy looking sites that use rainbow colored fonts and spaceship icons. the only site that seems normal and doesn't have pictures of aliens on it is the one about german astronomer johannes kepler. but i have a devotional to give and so my research will have to wait. this week, all of my questions were answered when i found a dvd called "the star of bethlehem:  unlock the mystery of the world's most famous star" produced by stephen mceveety.  a lawyer, who also happens to be a committed christian, named rick larson had some of the very same questions i did, starting when his daughter wanted to display the wise men on their lawn one christmas. his relentless mind-heart quest for scientific evidence, historical accuracy and biblical truth culminated in this truly amazing dvd presentation.  he is funny, doesn't take himself too seriously, and is whip-smart logical about the details of presenting this centuries-old mystery.  what he discovers using advanced astronomy software absolutely astounded me.  so much so that i went outside under the stars, tears in my eyes and simply looked up.  i could say so much more, but it'd be simpler for you, if interested, to check out the video or his reputable website for yourself at www.bethlehemstar.com.  like the wise men, i hope it will inspire you to come and worship the One who made the heavens and the earth.  happy new year, dear readers!

pittock piano playing

this is me playing the pittock mansion's steinway piano!  to back up, for all the years i've lived in this area, i've never actually been inside the mansion.  (the one time i approached over fifteen years ago on a hike, i arrived to the front door just as they were closing.)  so i put it on this year's "winter wish list of fun things to do inside while i'm waiting to be able to kayak again."  i'm glad i waited.  even in the last three years i've learned so much portland history that i think i appreciated the tour even more. plus everything's better with a friend!  we'd only been inside a few minutes when a tour guide asked me, "do you play piano?  would you like to try the steinway?"  "hi, uh, me? yes, well, um, sure, it would be an honor!"  she ushered me behind the rope and urged me to sit.  i played some simple tentative rolling chords. "go on, really play, it gives a marvellously full sound," she urged.  so i played a bit louder and more freely.  it was like driving a mustang at full throttle and my heart was racing.  a second tour guide came in, a concerned look on his face, "did you tell her she could play that?" he asked the first guide, "oh, yes, i invited her to."  "oh, well, in that case, carry on...happy new year!" he called out, visibly relieved (not that i would have done this uninvited). the 16,000 square foot mansion's architecture is strikingly modern and advanced for it's commission of 1909, including a central vacuum system, intercoms, an elevator, and indirect lighting.  i was impressed by the blend of french, turkish and english design styles and use of circular wood patterns, curved windows and marble staircase.  even though it was more expensive, pittock chose northwest materials whenever possible.  i was impressed not only by the pittock's pioneer spirit (arriving penniless in 1853 and moving from being a typesetter for the oregonian to owning the paper) but by their generous spirits in everything from inviting orphaned nieces to live with them to founding portland's annual rose festival.  henry was also a mazama member, being the first to climb mt. hood on july 11, 1857.  i wish they could have enjoyed their home longer, as it was completed in 1914 but henry and his wife died just four and five years later, leaving it to family members who lived in it until 1958.  portions were severely damaged by the 1962 columbus day storm but saved and restored to the 46 acre museum it is today.  the view, even though foggy yesterday, is impressive from 1,000 feet above downtown.  portland parks and recreation will host the 100th birthday celebration this summer.  for more, see www.pittockmansion.org

not sozzled by kombucha?

one of the great things about vacation is the ability to be spontaneous; dropping by without calling first, acting on ideas.  when i knocked thus spontaneously and unannounced on my friend's door early new year's eve, my elementary-age friend maya (aka WordGirl Extraordinaire), ran and got an old cell phone that she uses for thesaurus.com  "lanette!  i'm looking up the word of the day for you!  here it is..." she said, breathlessly, waiting for the site to register, "...it's 'sozzled!' as in intoxicated, inebriated or drunk."  needing to use her word in a sentence as is our custom, i quickly replied, "well, maya, that's why i'm here so early, i'm wanting to get home safely and avoid any sozzled drivers on the road."  one of their christmas gifts to me was a beautiful cobalt blue bottle of homemade kombucha.  i've never had kombucha before, but i've seen the fancy labelled bottles of it at upper-end grocery stores. once safely home, i opened it, not realizing it had gotten shaken a bit in the car, thus exploding all over me and the kitchen.  akin to a champagne cork popping, though, i thought it seemed fitting for the evening's celebration of 2014 (which was me, this tea, and a documentary. gripping, i know.  more on that in a moment.)  wiping it from my face, arms, counter and floor, i tried a sip and it's--at least my friend's version--pretty good.  but i still didn't really know what it was.  it is defined as a lightly effervescent fermented drink of sweetened black tea.  our english word, usage circa 1995, is likely derived from the japanese word kombu (kelp).  in the long run i'm probably more of a non-fermented tea person (in the absence of coffee of course, crema and espresso portland conisseur-snob that i've become), but in the spirit of adventure i'll try everything at least once.  plus, the fermentation level being so low (less than .5%) rest assured, it's not going to sozzle you.