Sunday, June 25, 2017

Blooming Mother-In-Law's Tongues!

Yeah, I know--sounds like a rock band!  But it's just an annual event in my gardens.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom @ 1st Stage


My self-titled "Year of Living Theatrically" is coming to a close.  After today's adventure, I have 2 more shows to see.  Today I went to see my first August Wilson play, "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom".  It's one of the Pittsburgh Cycle of plays that defined Wilson's career.  In chronology it's the third member of the cycle, but it was the first one he wrote and the only one not set in Pittsburgh.  It is the story of a single recording session of the "Mother of the Blues," Madame "Ma" Rainey in Chicago in the mid-1920's.  The bulk of the plot is carried by her ensemble of musicians, but Ma also has a consequential role in the arc of the story-telling.

The theater company was new to me.  1st Stage Theatre is located in McLean, Virginia near to the Tyson's Corner shopping/office/high rise hub, but it's decidedly unremarkable.  The actual theater is found on the second level of an industrial strip mall made up mostly of various auto repair and body shops.  Once inside the operation is ticketless--I made my purchase online and they had my name on a printout to verify my attendance.  The actual theater space is intimate, and surprisingly adequate.  The set was beautiful!  It gave actors multiple platforms from which to inhabit the various scenes, and it maximized the sense of space.

As to the production, there's an old adage about how even gnats can befoul a jar of perfume.  So let me both begin with the gnats but preface them by saying it was a decent production, and I will speak of the positives, too.  To begin with, the play itself was completely new to me.  Therefore, I relied on the actors to bring its mean to the surface, but finding the path of the plot was often muddled and lost in the moments.  It would be like have each individual player know well their lines and when to deliver them, but not comprehending a higher level of meaning when the power of the ensemble kicks in and one person's dialogue becomes the compelling catalyst to the next person's dialogue.  About half of the cast failed to transition from competent line-readers to characters speaking real words in real time.  Most disappointing in this regard was Thomascena Nelson in the title role.  As Ma Rainey, she had a lot of really important stuff to say, but never convinced me that in saying these things the fact that there were other characters in the room with her matter at all.  She delivered the lines with great accuracy and even feeling, yet; who was she delivering them to?  Another easily rectified short-coming would have been to have taught Tendo Nsubuga in the role of Ma's nephew how to actually stutter.  It was kind of a key aspect to his character, an otherwise minor role.  The fact that he was bad at it, made it feel like a high school production when it was his turn to speak. Even those actors who delivered powerful moments or consistent characterizations were not able to rescue the overall sense of lethargy.

Who did I like?  I liked most of all William T. Newman as Cutler.  He was consistent in his portrayal of the ensemble's old-guard leader.  He play off of and with other's and dog gone it he was just believable and likeable start to finish.  I liked Joe Palka as Ma's agent Irvin.  (Full Disclosure: I know Joe in a very casual way--over 15 years ago I was one of his daughter's teachers.  We surely spoke on a couple occasions back then, but I honestly doubt that he would remember me.  I recall at that time knowing that dabble in acting, while his wife--the Emmy Award winning Weather Woman--was the real "star" of the family.)  Joe channeled to great effect the Meredith Burgess character from the "Rocky" films to present a milder everyman caught between competing interests and doing his damndest to make nice-nice.  I like Michael Anthony Williams as the piano player "Toledo".  Michael not only created an affecting counter-character (the black intellectual writ-small), but did so without being smarmy.  And he was a consistent source of comic interjection with his well-timed wordless reactions to others.  And finally, I really liked Clayton Pelham, Jr.'s portrayal of Levee.  However, I also found it lacking.  He held in the palm of his hand the key soliloquies of the play.  The first feeling like it came out of nowhere at the end of the first Act.  An utter gut punch...and that's my complaint.  How is the midst of such an abjectly dark spot upon his heart, was there no warning...no indication of such earlier in the show?  The opportunity was there, and it was ignored.  I sense in this man a profound desire to act at a superior level--it came out at times and rather than being profound, because there was no sufficient foundation, they were a little odd, a little off.  No greater representation of this was than the final scene.  What should have been a psychological tour de force of regret and realization was just confusing and half-baked.  While many others stood at the end in ovation--this time, I remained seated.  A good show deserves nothing more.




Monday, June 19, 2017

Hostas in the Rain







More Asiatic Lilies


 I often take multiple pictures of the same subject from nearly the same angle looking for subtle differences.  Can you see any?






Rainy Day Humps and Bumps!

The Bactrian Camel has humps and bumps...

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Romeo, My Love

Isn't this picture just lovely?  My truest friend and constant companion.  My Romeo!
For those new to my blog, here's a relevant timeline that will give you a sense of just how precious this beautiful creatures advent in my life is.

1984 - I lived in Costa Rica and taught high school at Colegio Metódista

2012 JULY - I reconnected with one of my former students on Facebook.  He now lives in Berkeley, California and works for a major bank in their IT dept.

2012 OCTOBER - He shared his participation in a dog rescue organization called "Animal Rescate" that saves street dogs from San José and finds them homes.  He explained that some of the dogs were imported to the United States.  He asked me if I would be interested in adopting such a dog.  I declined.  My schedule makes living with a dog very difficult.  

2013 FEBRUARY - In a new conversation, he shared the pics of a dog that his parents had rescued and that dogs story.  A scrawny little beggar who had shown up in their neighborhood and stayed in hopes of meeting the next door neighbors pet dog who was in heat.  Silly little horny dog!  I commented on the fact that he was a real "Romeo".

The next picture was of "Romeo" with his cousins hanging our in his parent's yard and a fervent resume of the dog's amazing qualities...  Like, what was I supposed to do now?  Without meaning to, I had christened him!  

2013 MARCH - Consultations began on the process of Romeo's emigration to the United States.  It was absurdly easy.  The Animal Rescate clinic managed all of the medical procedures and immigration documents for a flat contribution that didn't even cover the cost of air fare!  You know I gave them more than they suggested.

2013 APRIL - 5 weeks from commitment to adopt this beautiful foreigner I traveled to Dulles International Airport and claimed him as my own.  

As a street dog (stray) the particulars of his birth are a mystery.  The vets in Costa Rica gave his age as one year during their initial examination.  And clearly he was still a pup when he arrived.  The picture is of a beautiful 55 lb dog.  His weight at dis-embarkment was 34 lbs.  So best we can tell, he was born in the mid-winter of 2012.  Thus his birthday is 14 February, 2012.  Makes perfect sense to me!

2017 JUNE - My 5 and a half year old bestest boy ever is the joy of my life.  How amazing this web in which we live.  You never know how one moment in time will lead to another, but you must be open to what is possible.  

Speaking of "Zoo's"

Besides the little plastic animals...The real ones are all around us!
 Getting ready for work on this past Friday morning, I glanced out my guest bedroom window and saw something in my neighbor's garden that didn't make sense.
And then a closer look!  She looks good.  Healthy...perhaps even pregnant.  It's likely given that she is on her own here and not among the little herd that calls our neighborhood home.  

More Little Garden Zoo Critters...

From today's photo shoot: European Red Deer, Sloth Bears, African Wild/Painted Dogs, Clouded Leopards, and a Fennec Fox.  And remember, admission is always free at my zoo!





Avocado Pesto Pasta

 Inspired from a Facebook video of Michael Bolton making this dish, but modified by me, of course!

The Pesto is made in a blender by combining the following ingredients:

1 Avocado
1 cup of shredded Parmesano Cheese
1/2 cup chopped Walnuts
1 cup of fresh Basil leaves
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
3 cloves of Garlic
2 Tbsp Olive Oil

Once thoroughly combined into a paste, mix with the pasta.  I ended up only using about half of the paste and you can see how it covered the pasta, so use your judgment on this.

Separately I cut 8 oz's of Cherry Tomatoes in half and mixed them with one small container of black olives and one small jar of capers which I added to the pasta once the pesto was mixed in.  It was delicious!
And I served it with Shrimp Scampi.

Happy Father's Day!

Yup.  My Dad!  circa 1975?  It's not from our home at all...and so the location stumps me.  But that's my dad in all his glory.  Cheers!

Another Lily Blooms!


Saturday, June 17, 2017

My Garden Zoo: Blue Poison Dart Frogs



My Summer Room


Saturday is always cleaning day! So after the bathroom and kitchen were well sanitized and tidied up, I turn my attention to the most important room of the summer--the deck!


Bee Balm!

Over the years as I have gardened and pretty much created my gardens from scratch, I have learned so much. I have fancied plants and worked with them to much success with some and none with others. Yet, I continue to fancy many.

Some of my successes have been:
Phlox--(so much so that I have to keep them corralled in a specific plot that I am thrilled with, but am also always pulling up others from elsewhere in the garden!)
Celandine Poppy--(a consistent friend in early spring)
Ragwort--(still ascending)
Soldago Goldenrod
Tiger Lily
Bleeding Heart
Monk's Hood
Fire-cracker Lysimacia
St. John's Wort
Coneflower
Japanese Anemone

Some that were strong, but faded away include:
Purple Loosestrife--(good riddance!)
Foxglove
Lithodora
Butterfly Weed
Goat Spurge
Lupine
Cleome


And then there are some like Bee Balm (Monarda) that I have wanted for from forever and tired time and again to no ultimate success. (I have neighbors with amazing beds of the butterfly, honey bee and even hummingbird magnet blossoms.) Then last year I planted a set of them again in the lower raised bed of the circle's garden. They did fine. Never bloomed. grew to a height of about 2.5 feet, then died back in the fall. Oh well, I thought. And now this!? They came back like gang-busters! And they are in at least three colors: Carnation Pink, Deep Pink and Purple! I am so happy.





Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Happy Hot Buddha

Even record breaking heat doesn't cause Buddha to frown.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Tomato & Broccoli Gratin

 The recipe from the latest edition of Cook’s Illustrated magazine titled “Best Summer Tomato Gratin” inspired this meal.  After reading it, I sort of did what I always do--my own version!

Ingredients

3 cups of Italian Bread, cubed 3/4 inch
2 cloves of Garlic, diced
1/2 of an onion, diced
1/4 of a Green Bell Pepper, diced
9 good sized vine ripened Tomatoes, cored and cubed 3/4 inch
1 smallish head of Broccoli, chopped
2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of black pepper
6 oz, Fontaine Cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese, shredded
Olive oil

I cubed the bread the night before and left out loosely covered to dry out.  Then I toasted the croutons on the stove top with some olive oil and set aside. 

In additional olive oil (maybe a Tbsp) I sautéed Garlic, then added Onion and Green Pepper, then added the broccoli and stirred it around for about 2 minutes.  Next I added the chopped Tomatoes along with the sugar, salt and pepper and mixed covered and lower the heat to simmer.  Every 2 minutes I stirred the mixture and covered for a little over 10 minutes.

In my casserole dish I combined 2/3's of the croutons with 2/3's of the Fontaine cheese and 1/4 cup of the Parmesan.  Then I began spooning in the Tomato/Broccoli mixture and folding in with the croutons until about 2/3 of it was combined.  Then I pressed the mixture down and more loosely added the remaining croutons followed by the remaining Tomato/Broccoli mixture.  I topped this with the rest of both cheeses and baked at 350˚ for 45 minutes.
After finishing this plate of this dish, there was only thing left to say, "MORE, please!"