Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Yes, wonderful things"- Howard Carter

A few weeks ago, I finally took my husband up on a long standing invitation of his. Every month he spends a weekend in Boston for work and his company puts him up in a hotel on Saturday night and for, oh,  four years or so, he's been asking me to spend the weekend in Boston with him occasionally.

I finally took him up on his invitation earlier this month. After one extremely early ride in- leaving at 5:30 am to be there by 7am, UGH- I waved good-bye to him with much /glee and (at the mildly civilized hour of 8:30 am) set off for South Station.  One short T-ride later and I was waiting for the Museum of Fine Arts to open.

I spent several glorious hours- and one over priced lunch- there.   My last visit had been during my junior year in high school when they hosted the Ansel Adams exhibit, so it had been awhile and I was looking forward to seeing what the Museum had now, 14 years later.

Ugh, it really has been that long hasn't it?

Anyway, I dimly remembered my art instructor saying that the Ancient World and Asian collections were considered world class so I was determined to view them on this visit.  Since the Jewelry (amazing) and the Musical Instruments (the craftsman ship is spectacular) galleries were on the way, I toured those first.  They have some of the early examples of organs, harpsichords, spinets, and pianos there- really neat to see the progression over the years.  I also couldn't help remembering my piano lessons and imagining other bored little girls sitting at those instruments and trying to learn their chords years ago.

The Ancient World and Asian collections lived up to their 14 yr old hype- my vocabulary isn't strong enough to fully describe the wonder of seeing funerary pieces, mummies, and artwork created so long ago that, in many cases, there are only best guesses to what period in history they came from.

Tucked away on the second floor in the Asian and Oceana collection was a recreation of a Chinese lord's house with furniture and even clothing examples dating  back almost a thousand years.   Despite the velvet ropes and barriers, it was almost as if  the original owners were going about their daily lives; and that if I were to turn around fast enough I could see them there as they had once been.

I  was also able to walk through about a third of the Art of the Americas collection (ranging from the Tolmecs through modern day)- mainly the colonial and revolutionary periods in American art.

Some of my favorite pictures:

Examples of early pottery work in the Ancient World collection.   Love the colors!   The black coloration occurred during the firing process- they would put the clay pots top down in the ash to harden them- the iron and chemicals in the ash and soot would react with the trace elements (usually iron) in the clay and turn black.

The earliest known depiction of a hair service- proving my industry's claim of being always in demand!

Bust of a Roman soldier (general I think) and proof that military hair cuts haven't changed over the years.

Examples of Paul Revere's work as a silversmith.   The man was a genius and an artist. These pieces just about took over the entire gallery.  You could not ignore them.

This is probably my favorite piece from that trip- it's such a charming snapshot of childhood, you just have to smile. An oil painting by Copley, at one time the premier artist in America, was commissioned to paint the patron's daughter and instead of creating a more formal and adult setting/pose for the little girl as was the usual habit- he painted her playing dress up with one of her mother's hats and her cat.

Later that evening, when my husband asked if I'd enjoyed my visit and about what I'd seen, Howard Carter's famous description of what he saw in Tutenkamun's tomb came to mind:

"Yes, wonderful things."

Friday, September 16, 2011

"There’s more to life than chocolate, but not right now." - Anonymous

There is a Heaven and it has chocolate chips.

I adore chocolate and will try the most obscure of recipes, but my favorite has to be the 70 year old chocolate chip cookie. Like so many advents in technology, science and medicine-it was discovered by accident, a fact that never fails to amuse when I stop to think about it.  

 Given a choice between desserts, the chocolate chip cookie wins my vote every time.  No need to dress it up with cream fillings, ice cream.  Don't even bother serving them with milk- I like my cookies unaltered and free of interruptions.  Any recipe that calls for the addition of walnuts is heresy and should be ignored as it is a substance unworthy of the divine chocolate chip cookie.

I was in Boston this past weekend with my husband- he went to drill while I went to the Museum of Fine Arts. Spent a glorious day there, despite only walking a quarter of the museum-if that- and one collection in full.  FYI- if you're in and around NE or Boston and haven't seen the Ancient World Art collection- DO SO. Not only is it spectacular- it's....awe inspiring.  There are pieces that date back literally to the beginning of recorded history and civilization.

The Grecian and Roman pieces are nice too.

After overloading on art, my dear husband took me out too dinner.   We chose the Dorcester Olive Garden near the South Bay Mall due to its proximity to the hotel- and the fact that my ankle was about the size of a smallish peach at the time.   Stupid appendage will not heal. 

While many chain restaurants can be hit or miss when it comes to service and the meal- I have to admit to being extremely impressed with that Olive Garden.   The wait staff was delightful, friendly and professional, our meal was great and it was a busy night, too.   Seeing that I was getting tired and being a  very smart man, my husband suggested we get dessert to go- and made sure that I was aware of the chocolate raspberry cheesecake on the menu.    I love my husband.

See, I worked it back to chocolate-

Now, like I said- my favorite is the chocolate chip cookie.   Love, love that hand sized circular confection with gooey melted chocolate pieces inside.   It was the first recipe I mastered and my "go-to" recipe for everything from chocolate craving attacks or school events for my son.  

No one can eat just one!  Seriously, my brother has accused me of adding crack or boingonium to the batch whenever I make cookies.  Dangerous, they are.

My day had been fabulous already- but damn if that chocolate raspberry cheesecake didn't end the day better than even my beloved chocolate chip cookies could have.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly." M. F. K. Fisher

Its no secret that I love food, or that over the years food has become not just a necessary mechanism for survival but also a Way of Life in my household.   The subject, creation and sharing of food has always been the focal point of any celebration or get together for me.

A view that many of my friends share, especially my best friend, Kate, the gifted artist of Antika Nueva for whom the sharing of a meal is both faith and celebration- and a wholly practical belief that a warm and full stomach combined with good company solves 90% of all problems.

 /shrug We're Yankee.  Pragmatism is just as much an article of faith as any other.

The Stone Soup Ceilidh certainly evolved around these concepts and the annual SSC at the CT King Arthur's Fall Harvest Fall (commonly known as CTRF) is the saving of many rennies who work the faire every year.  Life during the run of CTRF is much easier when you know that no matter how filthy, cold or wet the day is; as soon as gate closes, the grills are fired up and hot food (and conversation) can soon be found.   

This past summer, Kate suggested- and was met with wide acclaim- that the SCA rennies form a household based around the core SSC goals- good food, good company and that a plate full of faire potatoes holds the secret for world peace.  And Lo, Vaganza was born.  There's always room for an extra vaganza.   

After much discussion, and a firm refusal by some of the more fashion conscience, it was decided that the House Colors would not be Steel Grey Duck Tape on Steel Grey Duck Tape as The Vaganza originally suggested. Instead, the Vaganza House Colors are Purple and Leopard Print.  

So, long explanation now out of the way- 

I was bored last night.  And Entry #1 in my series "Things I Do When Bored":

I'm calling the series, "Vintage Vaganza" and am contemplating stemware to match.   

Sunday, September 4, 2011

"Common sense is genius dressed in its working clothes.”~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

While soaking my feet tonight and musing over the pros and cons of taking a hacksaw to my ankle, I spent my time working through the day's articles on Fark and ran across this op-ed published by the Daily Mail rag out of the UK.

While she makes a few fair points (infrastructure and response to disasters can always use improvement) but I just can't wrap my head around her entitled and whining tone.  Equating the US to a third world country goes beyond hyperbole considering what she describes as her "hardships" during Irene's Aftermath.  Not to mention that from her house, she's looking through a pretty thin piece of glass since merry Ol' England hasn't exactly been a shining example of first world decorum and prosperity this summer.

Irene danced her way across 10 states and has caused an estimated $7 billion dollars at least in damage.   Is it any wonder that crews and relief services were stretched thin?  Or that they might have done triage and prioritized more damaged areas (VT, Quebec, points south) first?

My issues with Ms. Churcher are that:

a) She states that she has covered impoverished areas of the world where modern day luxuries and conveniences are unheard of or reserved for the up most members of society.
b) Lives in the Northeast and hasn't been through a least one storm that knocked her power out before. While Westchester County, NY isn't as prone to the storms of upstate NY or NE they do see snow and bad storms are not uncommon.
c)Apparently skipped the day they taught how to research a subject in journalism school- and don't get me started on her complete lack of common sense.   If she has enough to balance on the head of a pin I'd be very surprised.

Irene was not a flash in the pan winter squall that arrives with a flash of lightning as it's calling card- we knew this storm when it was in the Caribbean.  By the time Irene was saying hello to GA and the Carolinas there was strong consensus from NOAA and other reputable weather services that she would soon be visiting most of the Easter Seaboard.

I pay next to no attention to the weather during the summer unless I have an event and I  knew about her 10 days out.   While I'm sure Ms. Churcher is a busy woman with a full schedule that no doubt trumps mine, I find it hard to believe that she did not have the time to research and prepare for the storm appropriately.   Laying in supplies, getting enough charcoal/propane for a grill or enough fuel to run the generator for a few days is not exactly hard to do and can be accomplished in one afternoon.

The part that really gets me?  She lives in lower NY.  She's seen Nor'easters- we have at least one every freaking winter.  While the correct definition of a Nor'easter is different than that of a hurricane- they can and do get up to hurricane level winds and the damage caused by a nor'easter is arguably just as bad and the recovery can be harder due to the problems with responding in snow and ice.

Mind you, everyone I know was pretty blase about Irene- we hosted a BBQ the day before and our preparations consisted of making sure there was enough oil lamp and ice to keep the fridge cold if the power did go out.  Which it did.   We were without electricity for 48 hrs and my son's first day of school was pushed back one day.  

Yes, ma'am, we are indeed living in third world conditions.  

I might be a wee bit uncharitable tonight but I find myself unsympathetic towards her experiences and hope that she might have learned some lessons from Irene's visit.