16 September 2009

Harriman Jewell Series: Lang Lang

The next time the fantastic Harriman Jewell Series brings Lang Lang (pronounced lahng lahng) to town, you should buy tickets as soon as possible because they will probably sell out and if you want to sit up close and personal with the performer, you'll need to act fast. However, if you are too slow or too thrifty to get those primo spots, don't worry - Lang Lang has enough noticeable personality for everyone from the front row to the back.

I was in the third from the last row last night and even from there this pianist's flair was clear. Before he sat down at the instrument, he waved a slow hello to the applauding audience and I could see, from all the way up top, his perfect specimen hands, equipped with broad palms, his fingers spread open and spaced inordinately wide. He is, perhaps, a different species of human, especially outfitted with hands and skill that are adapted specifically for the musical environment. But then - his talent is far more than just physical capability.

His skill is as wide spread as his fingers - when he plays, he is the butterfly alighting on a blossom and the heavy, ripe, plump fruits kerplunking onto the ground - he is the tinkling brook off to the side and the raging storms up above - he is the feather duster and the boulder. Whatever he asks of the instrument, it supplies.

Both Lang Lang and the piano seemed so small from way up in the nose bleed section. But as the evening continued - past both of the Beethovens, through the Albéniz, and into the Prokofiev the grand piano receded while Lang Lang grew large, a force to be reckoned with. Even from the back of Folly Theater.

11 September 2009

Boston for my Birthday


The first time I went to Boston I fell in love with the city. The second time, the sparks were still flying. I went for the third time over Labor Day weekend - to celebrate my birthday - and I am still head over heels for Beantown.

Make way...

We stayed in a big, old, swanky hotel situated just one block from the Public Garden (and the Mallard family). From this locale we were privy to all sorts of marvelous everyday things. We enjoyed the Garden and the Common, Beacon Hill and Back Bay, and the T took us everywhere we wanted to be.

The salt box birthplace of John Adams, 2nd president of the United States.

Such as Quincy, for instance. Like so many other fans of Paul Giamatti--er, uh John Adams--we wanted to see the Adams' old stomping grounds. So we hopped on the T and rode out to Quincy and got on a tour right away (despite the brochure's warning that the popularity of the HBO series may result in a one or two hour wait). We saw the birth places of both the 2nd and 6th presidents - as well as their crypts at the church on Hancock street. And we saw Peacefield and the John Adams library.

Sergio at bay

After our delightful history lesson at the Adams' homes, courtesy of the National Parks Department, we wanted to go down to the bay - about a 30-minute walk, or so Edna at the Adams Visitors Center told us after she asked us if we had a "cah." So we walked to the water and it turned out to be a full hour on foot, just so you know. But was well worth it, I think, to get to see and enjoy the water, always of interest to those of us land-locked.

The Freedom Trail

As if we hadn't had enough walking in Quincy, the next day we did the Freedom Trail - a walking tour of Boston spanning a full 2.5 miles and marked with a red stripe throughout. We took a guided tour from the Boston Common to Fanueil Hall and our guide's persona was "Mr. Lou," an 18th century son of slaves who had bought their freedom. "Mr. Lou" was full of knowledge and mildly inappropriate remarks - he was a great tour guide.

Mr. Lou at Granary burial ground

A little extra luck alighted on a tombstone at the burial ground.

Fauniel Hall - is this a cricket or a grasshopper?


The icing on the cake of this perfect birthday trip, was the chance to see friends. While we were planning a Boston vacation, our DC-based dear friends from college were planning the next phase in their advanced degree pursuits - which just happened to place them both in Boston for the month of September. I couldn't imagine a more delightful way to celebrate in a city I love, than to meet up with Ken and Linz, who know our names and are always glad we came.

01 September 2009


The weekend before Labor Day was the new pressure canner's maiden voyage - its inaugural canning session - its premiere - its opening night - its debut. To prepare I got up early on Saturday to go to the Brookside Farmers Market (where everything's organic!) and I took my Ball Blue Book of preserving with me so I'd know what I needed. In addition to the mountain of tomatoes I had already begun to collect from Fair Share Farm and Badseed, I was hunting specifically for corn at Brookside. And I found plenty. Not knowing exactly what I was doing - I consulted the farmer at the stand and we decided that I needed a whopping 36 ears of corn, which she sold to me at a discount.

That evening I settled in at the dining room table to shuck all 36 ears. (Oh, the corn husk dolls I could have made - families of corn husk dolls, indeed a village of corn husk dolls.) Then Sergio and I scraped every kernel off every cob. A juicy, messy endeavor. We filled six pint jars with corn kernels and would have filled a seventh if I'd had it. (The last bit of corn went into the freezer, instead). I read the instruction manual closely, slowly, repeatedly and out loud, just to be safe. (Everyone keeps telling me pressure canning horror stories - as if I weren't already anxious enough in the kitchen.) I followed each step of the procedure and in just one short hour and a half, I had six jars of corn, still bubbling when I took them out, but ready to stand by for the winter. And - no small victory - all 6 jars sealed.