Sunday, April 24, 2011


I had a really lovely Easter, hosting dinner for a few friends. I baked chicken breasts with lemon and garlic, roasted some sweet potatoes, prepared a salad and invented two rather experimental home-made salad dressings, and made a slow-cooked lamb curry with spinach. Of all the dishes, the curry was by far the most popular. In all honesty, I will confess here that I made a few substitutions in the original lamb curry recipe. In particular, I didn't have any lamb, so I used chicken, beef, potatoes, and black beans instead.

People brought wine, cupcakes, and flowers, which made for a festive occasion.

It wasn't a very churchy Easter for me, as it turns out. I was on duty at church, but at the side door where one hears and sees nothing of the service. I was originally optimistic that I could nip into the "overflow room" in the chapel where they'd set up a little audio-visual system and maybe catch a bit of the music or sermon. But when I went over there, well... yes, there was a system set up... a nice big screen, and a projector showing live video of the goings-on in the sanctuary. But no sound.

There were just a few people in the overflow room, and none of them complained about the lack of sound. There was a couple with a very small, fussy child they were tending to. There was a woman who was sitting there, silently wiping away tears (I am pretty sure she was not moved by our pastor's oratory). And there I was as well, thinking Uh oh! because messengers from the main sanctuary came bearing tidings that they were nearly at capacity in there, and I was pretty sure that the silent film in the chapel would not appeal to all audiences. Luckily there was no further overflow.

Saturday, April 23, 2011


I've been doing interval walk/run stuff on the treadmill. I set the walk to 4 mph, and then I gradually increase the speed of the run segment over the course of 30 minutes. Today, I kept the run segment at a brisk walk just short of a run for the first 10 minutes (4.3 mph), then up to 5.5 during the next 10 minutes and then 6+ for the last 10 minutes. I reached a new top speed of 7.5 mph!!! OK, yes, it was only for 2 minutes. So sue me. But still - it actually felt easier than I expected in my legs, though I was breathing very hard.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Die Walküre

I'd gotten burned out a few years ago from over-subscribing to opera in the Family Circle at the Met, but I ended up accepting a ticket this afternoon (Good Friday) to see the season premiere - and new production premiere - of Die Walküre.

I got to Lincoln Center much more quickly than I expected, so I wandered around the entire Lincoln Center complex for half an hour admiring the lines of all the buildings in the beautiful soft pre-twilight of a bright but cloudy day. I finished with the north side, on the stairs across from Alice Tully Hall. I waited for a few folks to finish climbing the stairs so I could move over to my desired vantage point, where I could take in the wonderful angled roofs next to me (the Lincoln restaurant) and across the street (the at65 Cafe). A security guard came over to find out what I found so fascinating. I showed him. He was skeptical for a moment, then he said, "Wow, that is really fun!" (Needless to say, all this slow walking and admiration for the sculptures, architecture, reflecting pool, etc. took place to a nice soundtrack on my iPod. What a luxury!)

This was my second time seeing Die Walküre, and I liked this production (by Robert Lepage) much better than the previous one (by Otto Schenk). Admittedly, I'd only seen it in its final season (i.e., in its 20-somethingth year!), which also happened to coincide with my opera-burn-out season. But my friends agreed they preferred this production as well. It somehow captured our imaginations better, and seemed far more alive and lively... even though we still did get the feeling that people were singing for a very long time about things that were very simple and obvious (e.g., Siegmund needs a weapon, and the sword in the tree is right in front of him, but the two love-bird siblings spell things out in excruciating detail before connecting the dots).*

The set was phenomenal - long panels with video screens that rotated and separated to become a forest for the actors to wander through... or war horses for the Valkyries... or stayed together in a giant seamless screen in various formations (rocks with lava, a mountain top with snow or a ring of fire, etc., etc.)

But also the music was thrilling this time. Absolutely loved Jonas Kaufmann as Siegmund, and Deborah Voight as Brünnhilde. (The singer playing Sieglinde did a bang-up job in Act I although she was apparently under the weather - but she had to bow out for the remainder of the piece.) The relationships between Siegmund and Sieglinde, and between Brünnhilde and Wotan, were quickly established, both compelling and believable in the context of the opera.

I'd been kidding around with a friend who'd wished me a "happy Good Friday" that happiness is not one of the emotions ordinarily associated with the day - and that that was why my decision to attend part of the Wagner Ring Cycle (rather than a Good Friday service) was theologically appropriate. But the production was really good, and I'm so glad I got to be a part of it.

FN* Speaking of which, we had some ideas for adjusting the opera to meet the needs and interests of modern audiences. We concluded the entire story could easily be told in an hour or less, although it might be necessary to cut some of the singing. My friend Patricia also has plans to provide much-needed moral uplift by (among other things) removing the incest and splicing on a happy ending. I don't want to say any more at present, because these plans are obviously very much under wraps and we don't want anyone swiping 'em! Producers and directors will doubtless be knocking down our doors any moment now, but you saw it here first, folks!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

An Afternoon in Boston

I went with my parents to see a Boston Classical Orchestra concert this past weekend. Faneuil Hall was bright and airy and we snagged great seats (with cushions as well - my parents are pros!).

The program focused on the change of seasons (there was also a change of sopranos, but that was not part of the program).

HAYDN: Introduction to “Spring” from The Seasons oratorio
GLAZUNOV: “Spring” and “Summer” from The Seasons ballet
BARBER: Knoxville, Summer of 1915
BEETHOVEN: Symphony No. 8

There were also some lush excerpts from Eudora Welty's writings (about summer, I think).

Maybe the real highlight was the orchestra's special number welcoming the conductor to the stage - they played Happy Birthday for him! I like to think he didn't see that one coming (First! Time! Ever!), that it was "really" his birthday (rather than his birthday week or something), etc.

The other fun unadvertised element was right after the intermission - the conductor went to the back of the orchestra, picked up an oboe, and played a little trio concertino type thing with two of his fellow musicians. Very cute - even when he turned that into a pitch (subscribe and support us, so you can get a full orchestra and not just a trio!).

My parents pointed out that the even-numbered Beethoven symphonies are a bit more obscure than the odd-numbered ones. Not sure why - I certainly liked this one!

Afterward, we enjoyed some Mexican food. It seemed like we spent most of the day eating rich food, actually - we went to an Indian restaurant just a few hours earlier for lunch.

Bumpy skies on the way home, but everyone lived to tell about it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mind the Gap

Oh, is THAT what we're supposed to do? I wondered why I kept getting stuck and dragged along whenever the train started up.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Easter Eggs

Here are some Easter eggs we decorated using oil and water:

We didn't really mean to put the eggs on top of the lawn mowers, but it kind of works, doesn't it?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011


My mom gave me a hyacinth growing kit for Christmas, and I followed the directions exactly. I put the bulb in the special glass container, just above (but not touching) the water line, and kept it in a dark room away from any natural light. Initially, a few rudimentary roots grew - maybe 2 or 3 mm. I checked on it from time to time, but the water level didn't really change, and it didn't sprout up as it was supposed to. Eventually I decided to try changing the water to see if that helped - and realized, with a sick feeling of disappointment, that the bulb was not growing. In fact, it was now covered with mold. I almost threw it away. After all, when a plant is dead, it's dead. Right?

BUT... I decided to plant it in soil anyway. And I pig-headedly continued to water it. Every time I watered the barren pot with the moldy bulb buried in dirt, I felt really stupid.

Until, suddenly, a succulent green double shoot appeared. In the empty-looking pot in the back right, next to the little clay pot, if you look very closely, you may see a little splotch of green. I am so ridiculously proud of this:

Staying with the same picture (above), the plant on the left is a bonsai tree, a Christmas gift from my cousin in Texas, which is supposed to be outside (not gonna happen in NYC) but nonetheless seems to be doing OK. The plant on the front right is the lone survivor of the move from Brooklyn to Manhattan, and I'm happy about its progress too since I repotted it from plastic into a clay pot.

In the picture below, the rhododendron on the left is one I liberated from an office after someone retired. On the right is some parsley I grew from seeds - a birthday gift from my mom back in October. Also very pleased with that!

(And the planter is repurposed - it originally contained a Christmas gift of luxury toiletries from my uncle and aunt.)

I recently went for a drink and light supper with a friend at the Union Square Coffee Shop. Afterward, we walked down to Houston Street. I liked this mural (person in a boat in a framed "painting"):

Today was in the low 70's, and sunny at lunch when I went out for the reading program. Delightful! My reading partner looks less and less engaged in the books every week though. What a pity. She's even tired of the Goosebumps series. This, too, alas, is a sign of spring.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Three Days

Friday after work, I knew I needed a nap. I set my alarm for one hour, which would give me plenty of time to get ready to go out again. I woke up 2.5 hours later, when my phone rang. So that's what my life has been like recently.

Luckily, I still made it to my friend's birthday party at Johnny Utah's, a Times Square tourist trap of a bar. Three of the gang tried out the mechanical bull. I'd heard of the bull, and had assumed it was like the contraptions outside diners, where you put in a quarter and it bounces around a bit. But no - there's actually a sadist at the controls who decides what kind of ride to give (mostly for humiliation of the rider and/or the entertainment or titillation of the crowd). I'm not quite sure why people obeyed his commands. Women were instructed to loosen or remove clothing (so that jiggling could be seen to better effect). One of my female friends was told to sit on the bull with a stranger, riding backward and facing him, and of course the movements of the bull were designed to put them in compromising positions with compromising vibrations. The guy was way more embarrassed than she was. Best description: "She looked like a koala clinging to a bamboo pole."

Saturday, I helped out at the Tartan Day festivities at Stout and got to see a few Scottish bands. They had a dance-off between Brooklyn breakdancing boys and Scottish highland dancing girls (all to energetic highland jigs with a rock edge). The boys were amazing athletes, sheer muscle and very inventive, but the girls had, somewhat ironically, a home-field advantage with this particular crowd. There was also a scotch tasting in the VIP area, and as usual the most expensive one was the most delicious.

For today's workout, I was inspired to stay on the treadmill a bit longer than I'd originally planned because BBC America was airing some Doctor Who episodes. (Top speed: 6.5 mph.) Once I finished, I could have made it to church on time... but that would have meant sprinting out the door. Instead, I decided to follow my pleasure, which was to enjoy some oatmeal, make a coffee smoothie (with plain yogurt, 1/3 of a frozen banana, fresh ginger, and cinnamon), and enjoy a nice hot shower. There was stuff going on after church as well, but when I really thought about how I wanted to spend my day, I realized that subway travel just wasn't part of it. So I walked over to Borders bookstore (everything 60% off or more) and browsed for a while, then went a bit further on for groceries. When I got home, I made crockpot lamb curry with spinach ... using beef, chicken, potato, and black beans instead of lamb, and a wok instead of a crockpot. It turned out really well. Spent some time napping, listening to RFI, and reading City of God.