Archive for January, 2012

Guess Who?

This past Friday was our second date night. It was another success. We watched ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’ and made Apple Bacon Pancakes, Mimosas, and Classic Coffee Creme Caramels.

The pancakes were heaven. I made them with whole wheat pastry flour and they were wonderfully hearty and filling. Whole wheat flour has always added more of a nutty flavor to foods and when combined with the apple- HEAVEN!!!

The coffee cremes came from the ‘Chocolate and Coffee Bible’. I wasn’t crazy about them. I loved the texture (like a custard) but it had a very strong coffee flavor. Too strong for me. The hubby loved the coffee flavor but wasn’t jazzed about the custard texture. So we will probably not be making these again.

The movie was great. Ryan felt that there wasn’t enough action (go figure) but I enjoy ‘talking’ movies (as my younger siblings termed dialogue-driven dramas many years ago) and thought it was very well-paced. To me, the movie’s biggest strength is that it took a large concept (an interracial relationship at a time when it was still illegal in many places) and restricted the setting, time frame, and characters in order to tell the love story of the parents for each other and for their children. By the end of the movie, the couple’s relationship became the backdrop for them learning about their parents in a way they never had before.

It was also interesting to watch the movie with a contemporary eye, considering that the topic (an interracial couple) is no longer controversial. It was somewhat uncomfortable because, to have been so advanced for its time, it is very politically incorrect for our time. And when you add a viewing of ‘The Help’ to the mix, the character of Tilly, the housekeeper, takes on a whole new dimension. It is also a teensy bit vindicating to me, a Southern girl, to know that Southerners were not the only ones to have help that they genuinely did not ‘see’. Wealthy, west coast liberals did too.

This is another movie that I appreciate because of its optimism and because I can watch and see how far we, as a society, have come. Even in ways the movie did not intend- like understanding the role of the help. Sometimes you see something from a past era and think, “Goodness things have changed. How on earth did we get here?!” and then other times you see something that reminds you that not all movement forward means something valuable is lost. Sometimes, every so often, you get to see what we have gained.

It is further evidence that things to do not have to be grim and angry in order to be serious and valuable. The subject of race, romantic relationships changing over time, children growing up and gaining their own lives, etc. are all very serious matters that all human beings have to confront. And I think the movie allows viewers to appreciate the seriousness of those matters against an open, sunny, beautiful backdrop. Nothing in the setting or cinematography makes the viewer feel cornered or edgy. The movie allows the viewer to see the optimism of the Joanna Drayton (the soon-to-be bride) and the eventual happiness of the parents to know that they have helped pass on something beautiful and lasting to their children- even though the world is changing around all of them.

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I am that Yankee Doodle Boy (Girl)

Friday night is date night at home at our house. We decided to start the tradition in order to give ourselves something specific to look forward to during the week, have a chance to make some of the awesome internet recipes that I have found, and to start actually watching some of the movies that everyone says are so great.

This past Friday night was our inaugural date night. It was incredible. We made BBQ Chicken Quesadillas, Bruschetta, Cheese Fondue and a Simple Chocolate Cake. We also had a delicious Chianti- Ruffino Superiore, I think. I know that sounds like a hodge podge but it was like having a super indulgent appetizer sampler platter along with yummy wine and chocolate.

I LOVE How Sweet It Is! I have never had a recipe fail from her site. We are going to be making at least one of her recipes each week and our desserts from the ‘Chocolate and Coffee Bible’ linked above. I would recommend all 4 of the dishes we prepared. They were both simple and indulgent. The best thing about the food was that we splurged on cheese, chocolate, and wine- all in the same meal. Three of the most oft-overlooked food groups.

Our movie selection was ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ which is based on the career of George M. Cohan. The movie was number #100 on AFI’s 1997 list ‘100 Years, 100 Movies’. I had seen this movie before and happen to love it. I have a weakness for musicals, films from the 1940’s, and patriotic songs and stories. I was sorry that it was removed from AFI’s 2007 list, but it will remain on my lists of “Favorite Movies” and “Best Movies Ever Made”.

I think one reason it is both to me is because it is the exact opposite of American film noir, both in style and content. It is very light-hearted, inspiring, patriotic, and optimistic. I appreciate film noir but I do not believe that something must be dark or cynical (to put it very simply) in order to be profound or have value. This is a country of legitimate success stories and, in spite of what some people think, actually has a genuine culture. This movie embodies a lot of that. George M. Cohan grew up as a traveling vaudeville performer and became one of the greatest composers and performers in our country’s history. And he received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his songs ‘Over There’ and ‘You’re A Grand Old Flag’. Both of these songs embody and have continued to nurture our culture’s desire to be strong, moral victors who celebrate liberty, attempt to unite under a symbol that represents ideas (not race or status), will fight for our freedom and fight in order to finish and leave (not amass land or property).

Also, I am a fanatic for anything historical that is also accurate and well put- together. This movies succeeds on all accounts. The details are mostly correct, the sets and costumes are well designed, and the song and dance numbers are lavish and inspiring. This movie serves as a good picture of the career of George M. Cohan, and because of its age, as a source regarding film styles in the early 1940’s.  

Just like I believe that certain songs and albums are worth carving out time to experience before you die, I believe certain films are worth it also.

What would life be…

without a song or a dance
what are we
so I say ‘Thank You for the music’
for giving it to me- Abba

The first Abba song I heard was ‘Dancing Queen’ on VH1. It was long ago- back when they played actual music videos. I loved  it! I was already a wretchedly uncool teenager, with my Star Wars fishing hat; white platform shoes; a Dr. Seuss Blue Fish t-shirt (that I purchased from Wal-Mart); and a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fascination that I fed by purchasing weekly TV Guides and reading the 2 sentence show synopsis. Adding an Abba obsession only served to reassure my few friends and peers that I would forever be a creature deserving of deep pity and sympathy.

Happily I grew up and remain a fan of all things mentioned above (except white platform shoes- nowadays it’s hot pink or black stilettos) without the goofy attire and TV Guide crutch. So it goes without saying that when I purchased ‘1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die’ by Tom Moon, I was thrilled to find out that Abba’s album Gold  was the first one in the book.

I used to explain my enjoyment of Abba with disclaimers that included my more eclectic tastes in music. Now I just don’t care if people look down on any of my musical preferences.  But it is slightly vindicating to have their (Abba’s) greatest hits album on a rather extensive and definitive list of recordings that you should hear before you die. Zone in on those words. Any of our clocks could stop ticking at any moment. This is one of those recordings that is worth carving out some of our precious time to experience.

Personally I think what captured me was the immediate accessibility of the music. The lyrics, while not particularly profound, are well-composed; the vocals are a notch or two above most pop music; and the sound is very polished and ‘actually moves through time’ (that is the only way I really know how to describe how the sound moves, changes and is in real time).

The music of Abba didn’t and will never change the world, but because they were one of the groups to do pop music best, they have managed to bring a lot of actual happiness and enjoyment to a lot of people. And in world where stress is a daily fiend to be battled, the reprieve provided by Abba is always worth the time you spend listening.

Elemental

One of my favorite, if not my favorite, artists is Loreena McKennitt. I loved her music the first time I heard it.  I remember that I was listening to music in bed late one night. I was wearing headphones because 1) I was supposed to already be asleep and 2) we weren’t allowed to listen to secular music. I found her song, “The Mummers Dance” playing on some random radio station. I experienced an immediate visceral, almost spiritual reaction to the piece. 

I didn’t truly discover all she was about until a few years later, in college, but I consider her to be very influential in my appreciation and understanding of Celtic music beyond Lord of the Dance (although I love that too). I actually walked down the aisle at my wedding to “Come By The Hills”.

I received her first album, “Elemental”, for Christmas and it has gone to the top of my list of favorite albums. The sounds are very crisp, clean, acoustic, and simple. Her vocals are nothing less than perfect. The only ‘weak’ track is “Carrighfergus” on which she performs a duet with Cedric Smith. It actually served as a distraction from the overall sound and feel of the album instead of flavoring or enhancing it. I am as fixated on her voice as I am her musical arrangements, and I don’t need anything beyond that. My ears do not like the clutter a guest singer brings to her work.

This clip is a great rendition of  “Stolen Child”, one of my favorite tracks from the album. I don’t think the addition of the electric guitar was necessary but it doesn’t detract very much from the song. 

My Little Corner of the Web

One of my goals (not resoluations) for 2012 is to write more. Not a novel, screenplay, or treatise on the meaning of life. Just more general writing. I, like many writers I know, have a difficult time sitting down with a blank piece of paper in front of me and filling it with anything worth looking back on and enjoying.

In my whole life I have only written 3-4 things that I am actually proud of. One was a Carebear Newsletter when my parents bought our very first computer about a decade and a half ago; an exegesis paper in college; a senior paper (it felt like a mini-book); and a short story that I lost when I deleted my MySpace account last year. That is not a very good track record for someone who has been reading and trying to write for almost her whole life.

I hope to use this blog to carve out a little space for my thoughts (and pictures, videos, and weblinks) about things that make me happy.