Saturday, October 31, 2009

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Here's wishing you and yours a SAFE and fun-filled Halloween.  Embrace the spirit of childhood!


'Autumn', by Sir John Everett Milais (courtesy of ArtMagick.com)

Brings back memories ...


God Bless!

M

Song: 'I put a spell on you ...', By Nina Simone

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Which U.S. University has the downright UGLIEST school colors?

Just FYI:  I am a very supportive, football watching wife -- college football anyway.  I know the scoring, the objective, and most of the rules.  I would even cheer for my husband's team (UF) over mine (UT) if they wind up playing each other for the National Title -- sorry UT, UF is going for the 'team of the decade' ... just the way cookie crumbles this year.  That being said: let's just say, when you're sick your perspective changes a little ...

While being forced to watch yet another college football game, my foggy, bored, flu-ridden mind begins to wander ... Ken is watching the Virginia Tech vs. North Carolina college football game. Big surprise, right?  I wonder if the flu (fever) is affecting my eyesight?! Can Virginia Tech really be wearing such a horrid combination of colors? Who in their sober, right mind, would put two such clashing colors as deep burgundy and bright pumpkin orange together?




I drag my sick self off the couch in order to get a better look at the TV screen. Yep,I wasn't hallucinating?!  The team's colors truly were deep burgundy and bright pumpkin orange. I ask Ken if he has the colors on his baby, 52" plasma properly adjusted? He isn't amused and ignores me.

I collapse back onto the couch and wonder to myself: Which U.S. University has the downright ugliest school colors? From what I've seen so far this season: I nominate Virginia Tech. What's your opinion? If I get enough submissions, perhaps we can put it to a final vote. : )

On that note: GO GATORS!

By the way, I do happen to like the GATORS' color pairing ... but I may be biased?!

Later,

M

P.S. 

Here is a link to a complete list of 4-yr. college / university school colors: http://www.ssur.org/research/CollegeColorsNicknames/FourYear/FourYear.htm


Results so far:  What's your opinion?  We'll put top 3 worst to a vote ...

Me "Virginia Tech!"

Ken says he hates U of Texas Colors:  "Burnt Orange and Boring White?!"  [I think he just sees UT as a potential rival for upcoming National Title.]

"North Carolina's colors are boring ... and baby blue?  Feminine?!"

"LSU.  Purple?"

"Brown University.  Seal brown and cardinal white."

Sunday, October 25, 2009

'La Traviata': Verdi's Most Intimate Opera?




[to watch the video accompanying this track see: Sights and Sounds of 'La Traviata' ]


Ken and I went to the opera last night. The opera being performed was an opera by Verdi, "La Traviata."  "La Traviata" was an opera that I have always wanted to see. Well, what can I say:  this opera was truly mesmerizing!  It was so easy to just get to lost in the music as this opera's story began its unfolding. This was only the second time I've had tears in my eyes at the end of an opera. Then again, I haven't seen that many operas to date -- maybe a dozen all total. The other opera which brought tears to my eyes was 'Madame Butterfly', and I was sobbing uncontrollably by the end of that one. Madame Butterfly has been, by far, my favorite opera --that I've had the privilege to attend, anyway ... would love to see La Boheme. Verdi's 'La Traviata' now takes second place in my heart. What they say is true, I think: 'La Traviata' is by far Verdi's most intimate opera.

I am still a novice when it comes to all of the terminology, voicings, etc., but I'm slowly learning. I never thought of myself as being one who would enjoy the opera. Ken and I had tried the ballet, the symphony, etc. and they were okay ... entertaining ... even inspiring at times ... but it wasn't until we attended the opera that I felt as if I had found my home. I only had to attend one opera, before I was hopelessly hooked. I can't quite explain it but for me opera has the power to move the soul ... I guess, maybe you just have to experience opera, firsthand, in order to understand?

Last night's performance of 'La Traviata' was spectacular -- but then again, I'm no expert! In my humble opinion, the roles were superbly cast and performed. Eglise Guitierrez, as Violetta, did an amazing job of conveying the gambit of emotions that her character had to convey. I think Verdi himself -- who called the premiere of his beloved opera a disaster, due to his dissatisfaction with the performance given by Violetta ... Verdi felt that "the look, the voice, the personality of Violetta was crucial to opera's success."-- would have been pleased with the performance given by Eglise Gutierrez last night. Guitierrez had the voice of an angel. Violetta's character never left the stage for the entire performance -- and the second act was 64 minutes long (?!).

Dimitri Pittas, as Alfredo was impressive as well, and his voice paired quite nicely with Violetta's. But the voice that caught my attention last night was the Baritone, playing the role of Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont. This role was performed by Weston Hurt, and his voice was amazing ... mesmerizing. When Hurt sang, you felt as if you were being transported to another place and time ... as if the story was real and you had traveled back in time as witness to a sacred event. I wasn't alone in this feeling, I guess, because when the performers came out for the curtain call, at the end of the performance, the crowd gave Hurt almost as big a round of applause as the lead characters of Alfredo and Violetta. Violetta received a standing ovation, and rightly so.







Bass Performance Hall, Fort Worth, Texas [see more images at:  http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/p/m/8177a/]


My only reservation with the whole evening was that the acoustics in the McCaw Hall paled significantly by comparison to what I have experienced at Fort Worth,Texas's Bass Performance Hall . The grandeur of Bass Hall is unequaled as well. It harkens back to a time, long since past, and not easily matched. I didn't realize just how magnificent Bass Performance Hall was, until I had something tangible to compare it with. I guess, I owe the architects, engineers, and visionaries who made Bass Hall a reality a huge debt of gratitude. If you live in Texas, you owe it to yourself to see some event performed at Bass Performance Hall. It is truly a remarkable performance venue. Of course, my recommendation for which type of performance to attend would have to be: opera.  : )


'Anuna', World Style Music, Founded in 1987 in Ireland, By Michael Michael McGlyn
(choir numbers up to 180 members)


My mother said that she and my father recently saw a group named "Anuna"   [ see also YouTube video clip and profile http://www.youtube.com/user/brezairola#p/u]  perform at Bass Performance Hall.  She said that the group performed a song a cappella, 'Csi Do Mhaimeo L.', by only candlelight, with singers positioned throughout the hall in order to play off of the hall's supberb acoustics.  No microphones were needed or used.  My mother said it was "truly amazing! Just beautiful!"  Apparently, the group's lead said there were few performance halls in the world where they were able to do just such a performance and that Bass Performance Hall was ONE of them.


I've rambled on long enough. Below is a summary of the story-line for 'La Traviata'. I'll add other relevant and interesting opera links when I can.   For now check out the Seattle Opera's blog at: http://seattleopera.blogspot.com/.   Enjoy!


Other useful opera links:

Seattle Opera, official site for 'La Traviata' -  http://www.seattleopera.org/tickets/2009-2010/traviata/sights_sounds.aspx

About Fort Worth Opera - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Worth_Opera

Fort Worth Opera Official Site - http://www.fwopera.org/

[Thanks to Diane R., I now have a complete list of operas performed by the Fort Worth Opera company -- since 1946 ... fun to see : ).  Fort Worth Opera company is one of the oldest opera companies in the country!  I am glad to see that my recollection (memory) of the operas that I have had the privilege to attend is surprisingly accurate.  Thanks Diane!  Glad to hear that the company is doing well despite the economy.  We'll be sure to stop by when we are in town again ... maybe this upcoming festival season?  God Bless!]

Top 10 Most Famous Operas -  http://www.vaughns-1-pagers.com/music/top-operas.htm

Long list of noteworthy operas spanning from 1600's to  present time - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_important_operas

Opera by language and artist, along with plot summaries - http://www.musicwithease.com/opera-02.html



Plot Summary for 'La Traviata', By Giuseppe Verdi
 Act I


Violetta's house in Paris, c. 1850

Violetta, a courtesan under the protection of Baron Douphol, is entertaining guests, among them, Alfredo Germont, who has been in love with her for some time. Although she is very ill, Violetta insists upon not changing her lifestyle (she has consumption). As she leads her guests off to dance, she is seized by a coughing fit and withdraws. Alfredo joins her and professes his love. Violetta discourages his affection, but gives him a camellia flower, telling him to return when it has faded. After the party has ended, Violetta wonders if Alfredo could be her true love. She soon shrugs off such sentimentality, believing that abandoning herself to the hollow pleasures of her life is her only option. She questions this, however, when Alfredo is heard singing beneath her balcony.



Act II, Scene I


A country house near Paris, three months later

Violetta and Alfredo are now living together, and Violetta's health has greatly improved. Finances are strained for Violetta, however, and she is in the process -- unbeknownst to Alfredo -- of selling off her possessions in order to settle her debts. When Alfredo learns of this, he leaves for Paris to raise the money himself. In Alfredo's absence, Violetta receives and unexpected visit from Alfredo's father, Giorgio Germont. Giorgio asks that Violetta leave his son so as to avoid the scandal of his son living with a woman of her lowly stature. He does this because the continued union of his son, with Violetta, jeopardizes the happiness and marriage of Alfredo's sister -- who Violetta has never even met -- to a respected nobleman. Violetta tells Giorgio that it will kill her, but she finally agrees to his request. When Giorgio leaves, Violetta writes a letter to Alfredo informing him that she has decided to return to her old life and has returned to Paris -- instead of telling him the truth behind her actions.

Alfredo is devastated upon reading Violetta's letter. He finds an invitation to a party in Paris that he knows that Violetta will likely attend and decides to confront her there.



Act II, Scene 2


Flora's house, party in Paris, the same evening

A party is in progress. Alfredo appears alone, and then Violetta enters escorted by the Baron Douphol. The two men play cards, in an attempt to better the other, and Alfredo wins. Violetta sees Alfredo alone and begs him to avoid a duel with the Baron -- as she fears for his life. In response, to Alfredo's accusations against the Baron and herself, Violetta falsely declares that she loves the Baron. In a fury, Alfredo summons all of the party guests to witness the repayment of Violetta's debts, with the money that he won at cards that very evening. He flings the money wildly at Violetta and curses her. The Baron then challenges Alfredo to a duel. Giorgio Germont (Alfredo's father) arrives just in time to witness his son's outburst and hear his son curse Violetta. Giorgio reproaches his son.



Act III


Violetta's bedroom, a few months later

The doctor tells Violetta's lady in waiting that her mistress is dying. Violetta reads a letter from Giorgio Germont informing her that Alfredo has fled the country, after dueling the Baron, and gone abroad. Giorgio tells Violetta that he has confessed the truth behind Violetta's actions to Alfredo and will return shortly with Alfredo by his side, as Alfredo having learned of the truth is eager to beg Violetta's forgiveness. The lovers are finally reunited, and Giorgio Germont arrives to give his blessing to their union. But, Giorgio is too late, and Violetta dies in Alfredo's arms.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Found a new way to FLY!


Sail boarding gold coast


Song: 'Times Like These', By Foofighters



NOTE: Please EXCUSE the Video Content Displayed After Viewing (Next & Prev) : ( ! I have no control over it and it was the best video I found ...


I've found a new way to FLY: sail boarding! Saw this at Alki beach a few weekends ago.  I've been trying to talk Ken into going with me ever since.  [And trying to talk myself into risking being cold and wet?!  : (  But, hey with the right gear we shouldn't have to wait for warmer weather ... Right?].  I so want to do this!!!!

I'd never seen anything like this before.  Knew about windsurfing, but didn't look like the blast that the guys we saw out on the water were having ... with a kite-like mini parasail and modified surfboard.  The day we saw this, the wind was blowing fiercely and the guys out on the water were having an absolute blast.  Awesome!  Can't wait to try this ... even if I have to wait for warmer weather ... or better yet a trip to warmer waters.  You never know ... it could happen.  :  )  Fun to dream!

Embrace your dreams ...

M

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Where's George?




Or Abe, as the case may be ...

I bought a green tea at Starbucks the other day -- green tea ... NOT coffee ... I'm still being faithful. I  received a five dollar bill back in change.  As I was returning the bill to my wallet: I noticed a strange stamp, of purple writing, upon the face of bill.  The stamp read, "http://www.wheresgeorge.com/."  That's odd I thought to myself?

So out of curiousity, I flipped the bill over to see what -- if anything -- was on the other side?  To my surprise, handwritten on the back of the bill, in small print, were the words: "Please report sightings of this bill at www.wheresgeorge.com Thanks!"




Needless to say, I was intrigued; however, I wasn't able to log on-line to check out this odd request for a 'report of sightings' of my bill until the following day. When I did log onto the website, I found an entire website dedicated to tracking the journey of not just my lone bill, but hundreds, of thousands, of bills?! I was surprised! This is a national project ... not just a random website put up by one creative individual to track a single bill.

Anyway, I dutifully logged in the serial number and issue year of my bill. Then, I entered a status report of the bill. To my (somewhat) disappointment, my bill had only traveled 13 miles from its point of origin ... although, it appears to have had a spin in someone's laundry washing machine. : ) I will be going 'home' soon, so I may just hold onto my wandering $5 bill and help 'Abe' further along on his quest to cover ever greater distances and explore new lands.  With my trip home, I'll add at least another 2,400 miles to his journey.  That should put him well on his way to becoming a seasoned traveler. Then, I'll log back into the tracking website, from time to time, to see where my serial number 'Abe' winds up next.  Should be fun to keep tabs on his adventures ...

I have to admit, this is a novel concept. Kudos to whoever thought of it first! Might also be a great way to get kids interested in U.S. geography and other related facts. Just a thought ...
Check it out for yourself and see:  http://www.wheresgeorge.com/.

I guess some people really get into this? They go the bank and request entire stacks of new issue bills? Wow?! To each his own ... I'll just have fun seeing where the $5 bill that found its way to me winds up next.  Happy travels Abe ...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

University of Florida Gators Are Still #1 !

GATORS ROCK!



Visit the UF Gator's Zone: http://www.gatorzone.com/football/



Okay, I'm experiencing a rare moment of joy -- well, near to it anyway ... with happiness being 1-5 and joy 6-10 ,,, I'd say I'm at least at 7.5  : ).  University of Florida just defeated the University of Arkansas (in an uncomfortably close game)! But, hey: a WIN is a WIN?! Way to go Caleb Sturgis! Sturgis kicked the field goal that moved the Gators from a 20/20 tie with Arkansas, up to 23  to win the game in the final 4 seconds. So, the Gators continue their winning streak -- with 16 games undefeated -- and hold onto to their #1 National Ranking.  I've seen the Gators play better, but every team has their down days.  Sure they'll rally back for their next game (Georgia, right ?) .





I had been at a soccer game with Lauren, so that Ken wouldn't have to miss the game. When I returned home, Ken was in a BAD mood and Arkansas had just scored another touchdown. The score was now 20 Arkansas to the Gators 13. I told Ken to stop being so NEGATIVE -- HE WAS GOING TO JINX HIS TEAM! I told him to leave, if he was going to get so upset, and I'd watch the rest of the game for him. Then the girls and I started sending POSITIVE ENERGY to the Gator players -- and yes, praying too : ). We had a good little cheering section going in our living room, and it paid off. The Gators made a comeback and held their own ... right down to the final 4 seconds. See what the power of POSITIVE THINKING can get you?! Sturgis must be onto this, because he was one IMPRESSIVELY CALM dude going into kicking that game saving field goal.

So we're all on cloud nine now! : ) Going out to dinner to celebrate. Joyful day to you!



P.S. Had mixed feelings about which team I would root for at the start of this football season -- University of Texas or University of Florida (Ken's Alma Mater), but since U of Florida is going for the "Team of the Decade", I guess that my loyalties have got to lie with the Gators. Just hope that the National Championship doesn't end up being University of Florida vs. University of Texas?!  That would be tres awkward ...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Michelle's "Winging It" Homemade Salsa


I am a bit of a health food 'nut' -- my kid's words, not mine --and into natural healing.  Currently, I am fighting a cold, the flu (?), or something?!  My throat is incredibly sore and my sinuses are stuffy, so I'm making some of my homemade salsa.  It's a great immune system booster! Makes sore throats feel better and opens sinuses too. 

As I've said before, I hate to follow recipes; I'm also terrible about writing my own creations down on paper.  That being said:  here is Ken's attempt at trying to quantify my creation.  : )

If you're in an experimental mood or feeling lousy:  give it a try.  Enjoy!

11/3/2009 I've had a chance to remake the salsa using Ken's 'quantification' since this posting.  I've made a few minor adjustments.  Bottom line is: the TASTE has the final say.  But, I've marked tweaks with an '*' character.  Only added a bit more salt (I LOVE salt!), tad bit more Cilantro, and a dash more Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar.  Let me know what you think.



Michelle's "Winging It" Homemade Salsa



2 cans "petite cut" tomatoes, or 4 cups chopped fresh tomato (Roma or other)
1/2 of a medium red bell pepper chopped
1/2 cup purple onion chopped
4 scallions (green onions) -- top green part only -- chopped
1 medium Serrano (hot) pepper (1 pepper produces moderately spicy; add more or less to taste -- I like to put two peppers == !HOT! ... but kids won't eat that : ( )
1 tsp. finely chopped garlic from jar (or 1/2 clove if fresh)
*1/3 cup (densely packed) cilantro (fresh) finely chopped (but not overdone: want to keep juices in!)
*2.5 tbsp. red wine vinegar
*1.5 tbsp. olive oil (EVOO is best)
*1 tsp. salt (to taste)
1 level tsp. sugar (secret ingredient)
2-3 turns fresh ground black pepper (to taste)


Tip: This salsa tastes better after it has sat overnight ... then, all of the juices have had a chance to meld.

VIP: Needs to be REFRIGERATED!!! Should keep for up to two weeks.


Enjoy!



Saturday, October 10, 2009

Nobel Peace Prize Win for President Obama: A step towards hope ...

Congratulations to President Obama on his win of the Nobel Peace Prize, for his vision of world peace.







However, unexpected President Obama's win may have been:  it does lend credence to a worthy goal -- although, at times, seemingly unattainable goal -- of a world at peace, with all inhabitants of this planet living together in harmony.

Hopefully, President Obama's win will futher advance this worthy cause.  It gives me hope ...

We can't afford to simply categorize this goal of world peace as unattainable and do nothing.  The price of doing nothing is just too high!





While I realize that we have to be practical in our approach to peace ... that is, sometimes those with the ability to stand up against an agressor, who is doing wrong or something that would harm others, are compelled to act in defense of those unable to defend themselves ... I am hopeful, that our world leaders will strive to find a common ground for the good of all the wonderful inhabitants of this miraculously diverse, ever changing, blue spinning planet.




May peace fill your day and light your way ...


M

Song: When the Children Cry, By White Lion