World Travel Wednesday: Costa Rica

A few nights ago, I dreamed I was running an eco-resort in Costa Rica. I’ve never thought much about Costa Rica before, so I’m not quite sure where that came from. But now the seed has been planted, and I totally want to go. As long as I don’t end up like Toby Flenderson.

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Tasty Tuesday: Peasant Greek Salad

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Lately I’ve been craving Greek salad. I had quite a few ingredients on hand, but not all of them. Like lettuce for example. And at 9:30 pm when I was hungry and decided to make this, I was not so excited about heading to the grocery store. So I made a slightly different version, and it turned out pretty well. Apparently someone else invented this before me (imagine that) and called it Peasant Greek Salad.

Peasant Greek Salad

1 cucumber, seeded and diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 red onion, diced
1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. lemon pepper
Greek vinaigrette salad dressing

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Chill for at least one hour to let the flavors marry. I omitted olives and sun-dried tomatoes because I don’t particularly care for them, but you could add those also. My mom makes a version of this with orzo that is divine.

Musical Monday: Andrew Bird

Yesterday I played violin in public for the first time in at least a couple of years. I took lessons beginning at age 4 and continued playing pretty actively up until I was about 18 or 19. Since then I’ve just picked it up every now and then to play in various weddings. When people ask me why I stopped playing, I always say, “I did it for so many years, I think I just got really burned out.” When people asked me why I wasn’t majoring in music in college, I said, “I don’t want to end up resenting it because I have to do it. I want it to always be a choice.” And I think that philosophy has served me well. When I played yesterday, I chose to do it. I could have said no. And for the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed it.

I was trained classically, but my parents are very into Celtic music, so I can fiddle a little bit, too. There are many classical violinists I have admired, but I’m always really fascinated by people who use their violin in totally innovative ways musically. For example, Boyd Tinsley, the violinist for Dave Matthews Band, is amazing. And there will always be a special place in my heart for Nigel Kennedy — the British punk-rock classical violinist who plays the best Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto I’ve ever heard and looks like a rock star (mohawk, earrings, etc.) in the process. He brings rock and roll passion to the symphony.

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Happily, I’ve just discovered Andrew Bird. His primary instrument is violin, but he is also “musically proficient in guitar, mandolin, whistling, and glockenspiel.” Can you imagine having that on your resume? Awesome. Anyway, he has a degree in violin performance and is also classically trained. He played with the Squirrel Nut Zippers back in the 1990’s (if anyone outside North Carolina even remembers them). He had another band called Andrew Bird’s Bowl of Fire, and now he is a solo artist. He does some really interesting things with his violin. Rolling Stone describes his sound as “emotive indie-rock with chamber music experimentalism, with lyrics that refer to arcane subjects like mitosis and Cypriots,” and “jazz-quintet doing a Radiohead impression.” Hmm, I wonder what Radiohead would sound like if they had a violin.

Film Fest Friday: Doubt

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I’ve always been fascinated by Catholicism, and I’m not exactly sure why. When I was a kid, I once read a 400-page tome about it, trying to satisfy some inexplicable curiosity about what exactly made Catholics so different from those of us who had Protestant upbringings when the basics really seem so similar. I think the conspiracy theorist in me finds the whole concept of the Vatican and the Pope et al to be very mysterious — don’t you wonder what they know? What they’re keeping from the masses (to protect us, of course)? What information is hidden in those vast catacombs? And the skeptic in me is fascinated by the utter willingness to believe in things that seem so impossible. My friend always says he should have been Catholic, because he feels inordinately guilty about just about everything that ever happens in his life. I say life is too short for all that negativity. With that being said, though…the most successfully manipulative people I’ve ever known have understood that guilt can convince people to do a lot of things they don’t want to do.

Doubt. Wow. Perfectly cast. Even though I really don’t care for Amy Adams, she worked in this role. This could be Meryl Streep’s best performance of all time. And Philip Seymour Hoffman — I can’t think of a single movie he wasn’t great in. Some of the criticisms I’ve read have mentioned that since this film was adapted from a play, it still “creaks of the stage.” I agree, but I consider that a positive. I really enjoy it when I see a movie that feels more like a play than a movie. I think that’s one mark of a good movie, and of good acting. It puts the focus back on the story and on the acting, and not on extraneous things like special effects. This is probably the literature buff in me talking. I loved the spareness of this film, visually and philosophically.

Thoughtful Thursday: The House at Riverton

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Currently reading The House at Riverton byKate Morton, loaned to me by a co-worker after her book club read it.

“In her cinematic debut novel, Kate Morton immerses readers in the dramas of the Ashbury family at their crumbling English country estate in the years surrounding World War I, an age when Edwardian civility, shaken by war, unravels into the roaring Twenties. Grace came to serve in the house as a girl. She left as a young woman, after the presumed suicide of a famous young poet at the property’s lake. Though she has dutifully kept the family’s secrets for decades, memories flood back in the twilight of her life when a young filmmaker comes calling with questions about how the poet really died–and why the Ashbury sisters never again spoke to each other afterward.” ~ Mari Malcolm

So far, I’m enjoying it. It’s mostly what my favorite teacher would have called a “mind oreo,” with some truly poignant observations about ageing and the most privately experienced perceptions and emotions that most of us don’t pause to recognize or name.

World Travel Wednesday: French Polynesia

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On the “Before I Die” list: visit French Polynesia and stay in a hut over the ocean with steps going right into the water, and otherwise live like Gauguin, escaping “everything that is artificial and conventional,” living on fish and fruit, and creating art.

Musical Monday: Pixies

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The first concert I ever attended was U2 (Zooropa Tour) at the Charlotte Coliseum in 1989. I was in 7th grade. I went with my parents and the oldest son of my parents’ best friends. We were all huge U2 fans, and it was an awesome show. My mom was maybe the biggest fan of us all — she loved Bono and listened to U2 records almost every night while she made dinner and I wrote my spelling words over and over. The concert was even on a school night, and I got to leave school early so we could make the 90 minute drive to Charlotte. I have the coolest parents ever. Can you believe I wasn’t even embarrassed to be there with them? In 7th grade? 

The opening band that night was the Pixies. At that age, I couldn’t really appreciate what I was hearing. I was looking at Frank Black screaming on stage and thinking, “This is noise.” I mean, at the time I was listening primarily to early Beatles records, so I just wasn’t there yet. Since then I’ve realized how amazingly innovative they were/are. Mainly due to repeated exposure by an ex-boyfriend who considered them The Best Band Ever. They grew on me slowly, but now I love them. I love the fact that you can’t really compare them to any other band. They have a sound and style that is completely unique. Definitely one of the most influential and important bands of the last 20 years. And I don’t care if you disagree. Even Kurt Cobain said Nirvana would never have existed without the Pixies. This DVD of the 2004 reunion tour is freakin’ awesome. Been thinking about it a lot lately and wanting to watch it again. If you haven’t seen it, you need to.

Film Fest Friday: Ne Le Dis ‘A Personne

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I love Francois Cluzet. He is so underappreciated. This is a French thriller (title means “Tell No One”) about a doctor whose wife is murdered and the mysterious circumstances surrounding her death. Great plot; wonderfully emotional performances; surprise/twist ending. Also very interesting to see Kristin Scott Thomas in a foreign film. Who knew she spoke fluent French? She is so very talented as an actor.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Discomfort Zone

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Just finished reading this collection of personal essays. Mixed feelings. I enjoyed all but the last one. I really like his writing style and the self-deprecating humor. Somehow I like his fiction better…maybe because he seems like a little bit of a pompous asshole in real life. Even at age 15. Recommended, but skip the essay “My Bird Problem.”

World Travel Wednesday: Red Rocks

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Hands down, the coolest venue at which I’ve ever attended a concert. I saw String Cheese Incident there in July 2002. Highlights included the enormous sandstone formations everywhere, the steepness which provides a good view from every seat, and the view of the Denver skyline behind the stage. Very good memories.

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