Monday, March 25, 2013

The play's the thing...for some

This weekend Sam was running lines with his niece because her 5th grade class is performing Hamlet. Or at least some version of the classic tragedy that fits in a 30-minute time period and involves all the roles being septupal cast and all the Hamlets/Ophelias/ghosts/etc speaking in unison like some sort of Greek choragos. Still, it's a far cry from the plays I remember doing in elementary school which I'm pretty sure were never performed outside of elementary schools. The two that come to mind are the classics "Help! I Need a Vacation" whose plot can be fairly accurately deduced from the title and "Oh My Deer!" (not to be confused with the P.G. Wodehouse two-act Oh My Dear! which appeared on Broadway in the early 20th century) about a town being overrun by deer.

In trying to find any evidence of these plays to validate my elementary school memories, I discovered this awesome video of the title song from "Oh My Deer!" being performed. I have a feeling that is exactly what my 5th grade class looked like. I also like that "City Engineer" is one of the characters and that the staging requires the chorus to stand behind potted plants. But I digress. My elementary school had a rousing selection of plays, but Shakespeare they were not.

At any rate, the unexpected presentation of the first scene of Hamlet (my fianace has an excellent ghost voice) coupled with the announcement of the Shakespeare in the Park dates and plays for this summer (they're doing Love's Labour's Lost and Comedy of Errors with the brother from Modern Family in it for those in the city in June) had me thinking about the Bard.
I know absolutely nothing about this play, but I will probably go see it. 
I had an idea for a post based on something I saw on a blog around James Joyce's birthday. Someone had taken all the 1-star reviews of Joyce's most famous works off of Amazon to see what his greatest critics thought. Some of those posted were very funny, so I thought perhaps Shakespeare could enjoy the same treatment. As a note, the excerpts below are, in some cases, taken from larger reviews and edited for the sake of brevity and comedic effect.


The ambivalent high school student:
I really didn't enjoy reading this book and I wish that our English teacher wouldn't force my class to read this play. Nevertheless I finished it. I think that the story is very complex and complicated and consist of a huge amount of details. I think that Shakespeare did a pretty good job, though.

The reviewer who failed to see the humor:
This has to be one of the worst plays ever written, Shakespeare or no Shakespeare. While the Bard was the master of English drama, he really slipped up here. The plot makes no sense, the characters motivations are contrived, and the jokes fall flat. 

The pro-censorship child:
I would not recommend this book to anybody under 13. I found it to be extremely boring and porbably won't read it again. One thing about this book is the fact that it has alot of gore that is not fit for younger kids. It doesn't really bug me but it might bug some younger children(If they read it)

The intentionally (I assume) ironic:
Well, let me tell, you: it's boring and derivative. It's about this Prince who doesn't get his father's throne, and feels all depressed about it for a while, and fights back against his uncle (who took the throne and married the prince's mother), to show everyone that it was actually the uncle who killed his father the king.

Don't waste your time with this; watch "The Lion King", and you'll get it.


The shortcut advocate: 
The premise of the story is entertaining so I would suggest reading a summary of the play.

The generally unimpressed:
Macbeth I found to be tacky with very few memorable quotes.

The one who cuts to the quick:
Maybe I haven't understood the whole meaning of the play; to me it seemed quite boring and too predictable. It's a story about power and abusing power, about traitors and morality, decorated with many complicated sentences and words.


I agree with this one:
The most annoying thing about this play is that except for Iago, all of the characters are major simpletons.

The musings of an older English speaker:
It is English and I speak English. I just don't happen to speak Old English. Which is really ironic because I am old and speaking English. If you read slowly and put your thinking cap on, you will get the gist of what the story is about. Or! You can just purchase Cliff notes, etc. This story is exciting and full of action...........I Think?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patricks Day!

Although I'm the fraud at the Irish Arts Center who despite going undercover and dying my head red(dish) have no known Irish descent, I do enjoy Irish culture a great deal. I have some Guinness chilling in the fridge and spent part of today jamming on my penny whistle. I haven't been practicing much lately (to my detriment), so it was fun to get back to it. I hadn't been planning to record a song again, but then the teacher gave us a set dance (although I play it like a jig) called "St. Patrick's Day." It seemed inappropriate to not at least attempt it.

You can see my attempt here. I screwed up a few times, but I was loathe to do a second take because unlike when I usually practice (on my lunch break when most neighbors are working), I could hear people walking around overhead. It always makes me feel a bit self conscious, added to which the tin whistle is a fairly squeaky instrument when played in the upper register. As a good neighbor, I could really only subject them to the same song so many times, St. Patrick's Day, or no.

Dinah was a popular addition to the first video, so I wanted to include her a second time. Unfortunately, being a cat, this really required me to go to her. Which, in this case, was the floor. Another reason to not do a second take was because shortly after I finished recording, she was reduced to a melancholic stupor on the floor. It was all very cute (see Exhibit A, below), but impossible to record on my laptop with me in the shot, unless I played the whistle while resting on my elbows. I took it as a sign to move on with my day. Of course, now, as I'm writing this, she's peacefully meatloaf-ed next to me on the couch in a perfect pose. She's likely not destined to be one of the animal acting greats anymore than I am destined to be a tin whistle virtuoso. She's sure cute though.

Exhibit A. A common response to tin whistling.

Anyway, I should probably get back to lazing though the remainder of my weekend, but I just wanted to stop in and wish you a happy St. Patrick's Day from Dinah and I!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wedding writing

I know, I said I would make this into a wedding planning blog, but that hasn't stopped me from reading a bunch of wedding planning blogs. One of my favorites is A Practical Wedding, a tip from an old roommate who got married. It has some great wedding planning tips for low maintenance wedding planners, but also just interesting stories and ideas about what it means to get married or to be a wife. I wrote a post to submit to them for this month's theme "Decided," but I think I screwed up the submission process and didn't actually get it in for consideration. Well anyway, waste not, want not. I thought I might as well post it here. It does tend to break my promise about not making this blog about wedding planning, but this is more a general discussion of the process and less about the specifics we're dealing with. Plus, I think I'm the only one who actually cares if I make this blog about wedding planning or not.

Because I was writing for a different audience it's a bit more on-the-nose and tied up at the end with a nice message than my usual posts. Fair warning.

I get about five of these emails each day. This one had the subject line: "10 New Wedding Etiquette Rules You Should Know." Reading them is never a good idea.
Sometimes I think I’m not qualified to have a wedding. I know, logically, that aside from the potential issues of legality, the only qualification a couple needs to have a wedding is to want one. However, when someone is holding twelve forks in front of me, each with subtle differences and surprisingly varied price points, while suggesting I should have an opinion on them, I start to feel like a fraud.
I approached wedding planning going on instinct. Hoping that I would “just know” the right choice. This started out well enough. My fiance and I made a number of different appointments at venues around our city in our price range. Then we went to the first one--a working farm just twenty minutes from our city apartment--loved it, and decided the search was over. Even as I was emailing the other venues to cancel the appointments, I didn’t have any concerns about loft galleries and event spaces left un-seen. After all, the farm felt so right and fit nicely in our budget, why waste our time with more options?

This trend continued with a few other decisions...choosing the cake, hiring a caterer (this one was probably helped by the fact that the venue had a preferred caterer), a photographer, and an officiant. All of these decisions were made after copious online research, several emails, but ultimately only one meeting. We liked what we saw, and we went for it. After some marathon planning and booking vendors, I took a short break (okay, more like a month) from wedding planning. During that time, the only decision I made was on my dress, which is the first decision I made by committee. Or at least I had the opinions of several friends and my mother as opposed to just that of my fiance to go on. Since I’ve jumped back on the planning train, I’ve found I’ve lost some of my planning mojo. I think it might be because I’m now looking at the more decorative aspects--the flowers, the reception decor (which apparently is supposed to have a theme?), colors that supposedly have to match other colors, and a host of other things that seem out of my skill set. 

Thankfully, the Internet exists to supply me with the paralyzing fear of turning my wedding into a goat rodeo by failing to choose wedding colors. Pinterest, facebook, and the wedding websites currently infiltrating my inbox with daily advice, giveaways, and “Top Ten Mistakes You’re Probably Making Right Now!!” lists. The problem is this doesn’t just lead to agonizing over future decisions and staring longingly at one guestbook, then another on Etsy. That alone would be an inevitable slowing down of the overall wedding planning process, but what’s worse is that it’s causing me to re-think all the decisions I’ve already made.

Well, not re-think exactly. But I continue to waste my time perusing options for things I cannot change. I look at the websites for other venues and daydream about my wedding there despite loving my chosen site (in addition to being a working farm, they also have alpacas!). I haunt the website for the store where I bought my wedding dress and imagine what I would look like in their newly released spring styles. It isn’t even that I think any of the options out there are better or that they invalidate any of my choices. It’s just that each decision that is made takes a field of endless possibilities and closes it to just one. Or, I guess, sometimes more than one, as we did choose three cake flavors when we couldn’t decide.

When we got engaged back in August, the decisions came fast and easy. We knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We also knew we wanted to share that with our friends and family. These are the decisions that matter long after the playlist winds down and the last Instagram is taken. There isn’t some better option; there is only what is. I know that on our wedding day, our guests won’t be surreptitiously using their iPhones to compare our centerpiece choices to other even more rustic chic options. And I know I won’t be either. While it can be hard to keep things in perspective while the Internet is constantly reminding me of all the things I could be doing differently, it’s nice to know that the most important decision has already been made.

Friday, March 8, 2013

For all your savory waffle needs

Last night it was doing that worst-of-both-worlds snow rain business that the weather channel describes as "wintery mix" for lack of a better term. I was in the mood for some comfort food. Another qualification was that this comfort food needed to use cilantro, as I had some cilantro that was badly in need of using. In my search for cilantro recipes, I came across a chana masala waffle topped with samosa filling and a cilantro chutney. The recipe was vegan, but I could see there was a lot to work with. While kind of out there, it nicely fit into two of my comfort foods categories: breakfast for dinner and Indian food. Although my cabinets now resemble a pretty robust spice market now, I realized I was still short chickpea flour and chana masala, so as an added bonus this trip necessitated a trip to Kalustyan's. That place is amazing. Despite being a pretty small store, they have every weird, speciality ingredient I've ever gone looking for. It was definitely worth the 10-block slog through blinding mix to get what I needed and try to avoid too many impulse buys (came out with some black lava salt, but that's really more a necessity than anything else).

For the meal itself, it had three components, all pretty simple: the cilantro chutney, the beef samosa filling (although in this case it was used as more of a topping and less of a filling), and the chana masala waffles. For the cilantro chutney, I don't really have a recipe because I basically just made it the way I would make a pesto (throwing stuff in a food processor until it seems about right). I will say it involved the following in some form or another: cilantro, lime juice, onions, garlic, green chilis, and coconut oil.  Unfortunately, it never got quite the right consistency. I think my food processor isn't what it used to be. It was more of a paste than a sauce. It made me regret not just buying some chutney at Kalystyans. The only thing that stopped me was remembering that having borderline cilantro was the original impetus for the dish.  

For the beef topping, I did the following.

Boiled some water in a saucepan and added:

1 cup peas
2 peeled potatoes

Allowed to boil until the potatoes were soft, then drained and mashed them together. Meanwhile, I 
heated some oil in a skillet on high heat. Threw in:

1 diced onion
4 chopped garlic cloves (if you aren't obsessed with garlic, you could probably get away with 2)

Heated until the onions started to get limp, then added:

1 lb of ground beef

Stirred until beef was all browned. Then time to add pretty much all the spices in my cabinet. I added:

1 T minced ginger (so from the fridge, not cabinet)
1/2 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt 
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric 
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
green chilies (the rest of the little can I had opened to make the chutney)

Once that was all heated and mixed. I add the potato mixture to it. The result: 

Mush! But tasty, mush. 
Once that was done, I got to work on the waffles. Mixed the following wet ingredients:

3/4 c milk
2 eggs
1/4 oil
1 T minced ginger
1 T tomato paste
a couple of cloves of minced garlic (honestly, goes in pretty much everything I make)

In a separate bowl, I mixed the following dry ingredients (you will note some familiar faces):

1 1/4 chickpea flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chana masala
1/2 tsp smoked paprika (Side note: my favorite spice right now--have been putting it on everything from salmon burgers to popcorn)
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp salt (I used black lava salt, but I suppose you could use the boring table stuff)

Add the wet to the dry and mix to incorporate. Cook in waffle iron. Which should look like this (provided your waffle iron is as awesome as mine is):

Once that's done, just pile some of your beefy mush on top of a spicy waffle (which smells amazing while cooking, I must say). Throw some cilantro chutney on top (or really, the chutney of your choice), and you've got yourself a tasty dinner. Or breakfast, as honestly that's when I ate the leftovers. Verdict: delicious.
Better than it looks. If that's even possible. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Marching fourth

So that was kind of a pitiable showing last month. Will try to do better in March. Right now I keep making the mistake of being busy, but not with anything worth writing in depth about. This weekend, I
  • Went to celebrate a friend's marriage by recreating a brunch at the place we actually wanted to go but couldn't get reservations to (our version was probably superior anyway).
  • Attended the birthday party of a good friend and discovered I have a natural talent for bocce ball, provided the indoor court rules are almost completely ignored.
  • Helped a friend paint her apartment (well 1 1/2 rooms of it anyway) a beautiful red that looked rich and wine-colored on the wall, but rather looked like dried blood on my skin (that's how I paint: messily). Possibly disturbed a few people on the subway ride home.
  • Overcooked a skirt steak
  • Wandered around the local salvage yard for not-too-junky window shutters for a potentially poorly conceived wedding project.
There are all well and good pastimes, but not terribly interesting to elaborate on (both as a writer, and no doubt as a reader). I guess I finally understand why people tweet. Not to be deterred; however, I fully intend to write more regardless of how boring I'm actually being. After all, originally I used to write about things other than what I'm currently doing, and I do actually miss those times. For March, I'd like to try to expand on a few ideas not grounded in current events (although naturally that will change if I actually do something cool in March...). Since I just came up with this idea now, and it was kind of taxing, I won't actually start on this free form writing project today, but the promise is still there. Instead, I leave you with this: 

I call it "The Reluctant Handyman." It will serve the March spot should I ever get my 12-month Dinah photo calendar off the ground.