Monday, February 26, 2007

WWC: Tin Pan South

According to the website, Tin Pan South is "America's largest music festival dedicated to songs and songwriters". This is the fifteenth year that several hundred songwriters will perform in near a hundred shows during the last week of March, thanks to the Nashville Songwriters Association International.

Although Willi and I make at least one trip to Nashville each year, this is only the third time for Tin Pan South. In fact, Nashville has become a very comfortable place for us now. We have never been to Opryland, or any of the other slick, high priced places, but we can tell you all the good venues for small, up close and personal performances. We always hit lower Broadway and places like the infamous Tootsies, but the best shows are far from the lights and action. The nice thing about Tin Pan South is that the shows are already lined up with a schedule to boot.

We ordered our "Fast Access" Passes last week. They get us into the venues without the wait in line. There are two shows a night, for five nights, in each of nine different locations. Each show usually has at least four performers "in the round" and are timed so that you can get from one to the other without too much hassle. A lot of times the writers will stay after and just play for fun. Sometimes they mingle after the show which is kind of cool, in a scary sort of way. The only real problem we ever have is if two people we really want to see are playing at the same time in different locations. That sucks.

Trolling the huge list of performers, here are a few of the ones we have enjoyed, or will sure try to see this year... Harley Allen, Tony Arata, Bonnie Baker, Matraca Berg, Suzy Boggus, Chuck Cannon, Grayson Capps, Marshall Chapman, Rodney Crowell, Justin Townes Earle, Danny Flowers, Radney Foster, Dr. John, Jelly Roll Johnson, Will Kimbrough, Fred Knobloch, Wood Newton, David Olney, Lee Roy Parnell, Jon Randall, Rivers Rutherford, Mando Saenz, Thom Schuyler, Darrell Scott, John Scott Sherrill, Michelle Shocked, John David Souther, Jeffrey Steele, Joy Lynn White, Walt Wilkins, and Tommy Womack. Many of them are performers in their own right; most of all they are writers. It is a real kick to hear them perform the songs they wrote. Their credits will be listed on the link above.

Aside from the music, we have found several places for local brews and great food, including oysters on the half shell. Last year our find was a little place called the Crescent Cafe and Oyster Bar. You can bet we will be back there this year.

Then there is the annual hunt for the first Redbud and Dogwood bloom. Last year we found Cheekwood, a museum and botanical garden that was outstanding. The best part was their collection of Trillium, one of Willi's favorites.

We did not find even one Dogwood in bloom until the very last day, and it was just beginning to open. But, oh what joy!

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are Rush and Wait.

The Fast Access Passes are ready and waiting to be picked up. The list of artists is posted and updated daily. The show schedule is due to come out March 5th. The hotel reservations are made. Even Cali's hotel reservations are made. I'm so excited I can hardly stand it. It was a rush to get it all going, now all I can do is hurry up and wait.

NEWS FLASH!! Willi has posted his Mocha Latte recipe... can you believe it?

Friday, February 23, 2007

Oh Happy Day!

I just spent two hours listening to the most wonderful music; music that you can feel in the pit of your stomach; music that makes your heart feel good. At least it made my heart feel good! If you have an opportunity to see the Soweto Gospel Choir on a PBS station in your area...please do. You will not regret it. You can also follow this link to this NPR performance, or another one here which has sample for a CD called Blessed.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

WWC: It's Fat Tuesday!

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are View and Conceal.

It has become a tradition for Willi and I to enjoy Fat Tuesday with our own New Orleans style cooking. The celebration begins for us on Monday evening when we make King Cake to share with our co-workers Tuesday morning.

King Cake is a Mardi Gras tradition and has a rich history dating back to the eighteenth century, coming from France and Spain along with the colonists.

The yeast dough is a sweet mixture of butter, sour cream, flour, and sugar. It is set aside to rise, punched down, and then rolled out.

Some of the recipes we have found call for a cheese or praline filling. Ours has a layer of butter with cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top. The dough is then rolled in a jellyroll fashion.

Shaped like a wreath, the cake rises a second time before baking. Hidden from view, a trinket such as a coin, or in some cases a baby doll, is concealed inside the King Cake. The lucky person who finds the trinket is said to be the Queen or King of the party.

After the cake is cooled, a butter cream frosting is added in traditional Mardi Gras colors complete with sugar sprinkles.

Here is Southern Living magazine's recipe for King Cake. We like it the best.

Last night for dinner Willi made Jambalaya. I would post that delicious recipe, except in true Willi fashion he began with two recipes and didn't stick to either one of them! For lunch we have prepared a hearty Seafood Gumbo. On tap for tonight is Oyster Po' Boys with Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice.

"Laissez le bon temps roulet" or Let the good times roll!

Tomorrow it's back to the treadmill.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

It's a good day to be a dog.

This is an AP photo of Diamond Jim, or James, as he is known. He is the English Springer Spaniel that won the 2007 Westminster Best in Show this week at Madison Square Gardens.

This is Cali Mist of Sierra, or Cali, as she is known. She is our English Springer Spaniel, and she had a day of her own this week. You see, Cali loves people. They told us she would when we brought her home, but we really didn't know what that meant. She thinks that everyone, EVERYONE, wants to love on her; and she wants to return the favor.

She wraps herself around your legs and if you don't have a good solid stance, she will take you right over. As a result, we never take Cali outside unless she is teathered at the end of a nice long leash.

With the wonderfully large amount of snow we had Tuesday night, it was our great pleasure to open the door at 4:30 Wednesday morning and let her run. There were no cars, no people, nothing; just the snow that Cali loves.

Fresh, untrodden snow. And no leash! It was one of the nicest times I have had recently. I think I enjoyed it equally as much as she did!

She ran and jumped and lunged through the snow; around and around. Interestingly enough, she never once tried to leave the yard.

Several times she stopped and looked at me as if to say, "Are you really going to let me do this?"

The tracks tell the tale of a good day for a dog, our Best of Show in the snow!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Winter wine, some tunes, and a book...

We are in the throws of a little bitty snow storm...right here in River City, my friends. I tried to take some really beautiful pictures to share with you, but the really beautiful snowflakes kept getting in the way!

Here is another. I tried several more, but the snow was falling so fast and furious that every single picture has the combination of the flash and the flakes. I guess I am being reminded to see the beauty in the small stuff. I need that sometimes.

This is a more sheltered view from the front of our house. I don't really think the amount of snow is the issue as much as the wind that is causing great drifts. It was enough to cancel school today and maybe even tomorrow.

Willi and I shoveled the drive when we got home this afternoon. We made it all the way to the road, then turned around to see the driveway covered with another few inches. An hour or so later the drifts were back and Willi was shoveling yet again, only to be rescued by a neighbor and his blower of snow. Yipee!

While the outside is cold and snowy, the inside is cozy and warm. This is one of my favorite things...although my picture does not do it justice! There are actually two crackling sounds that I enjoy; one is the crackle of an old album on the turntable, and the other is the sound of a fire in the fireplace. You know, the fire crackle that makes you think it has a life of it's own.

What better time for some good old indulgence? After all, we're definitely not going anywhere real soon. Pour yourself a glass of wine...

...and put some tunes on the stereo. Something old and comfortable might be nice. This is my first chance to listen to some of the new tunes we picked up two weeks ago.

Here's my first choice. It's a little older Kasey Chambers release from 2000. You can sample the songs on The Captain here. I'm pretty hard on female singers. At least that is what Willi says. But this is pretty good, and a lot more rootsy than her newer stuff.

Here is my read for the night...I think it is my favorite new children's book.

Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth, Jon J. Muth (Illustrator): This is a really neat book about a giant Panda Bear that moves into the neighborhood, enlightening the children with three ancient Zen stories. My favorite is a lesson about letting go of frustration rather than carrying it around like a load on your back. Stillwater, the bear, shares short but meaningful tales in a simple and easy to understand manner. The author calls these "Zen Shorts; short meditations - ideas to puzzle over - tools which hone our ability to act with intuition. They have no goal, but they often challenge us to reexamine our habits, desires, concepts, and fears."

There are good thoughts for young souls in this book, and old souls, too. And that's a nice thing to warm up to on a cold winter night.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

WWC: Windy vs. Indy

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are Balance and Parallel. I'm a little early, but...

It's finally here, and boy has it been a long couple of weeks; especially if you are a Colts fan living in Northwest Indiana. Even before the playoffs, the possibility of a Bears/Colts Super Bowl had those of us who reside in The Region drawing sides. Because of the proximity to Chicago, the vast majority claim allegiance to the Bears. After all, we live and breathe Windy City sports in the newspapers and on television. Indianapolis, although only a few hours away, might as well be in some foreign land. Interestingly enough, politics in the Hoosier State draw similar boundaries. But that's another story.

Even our small, blended family has chosen sides. Willi, a Colts fan for many years, is opposite his kids, legitimate Chicago suburbanites. My own daughter and her husband also think the Monsters of the Midway will dominate in today's big game. Her dad, in Philadelphia, warns that the Bears will break her heart. Willi's mom, in Texas, is rooting for the Colts. I cannot lay true claim to either, being the fair-weather football fan that I am. Being a Hoosier at heart, and considering my reluctance to have much to do with Chicago or Illinois, I will put my money on Peyton. Besides, having lived with a Colts fan for these many years I know plenty about their ups and downs.

Truth be told, we would all pull for the Bears had the Colts not been in the game. In this neck of the woods, Colts and Bears fans have run along parallel lines this year all the way to the Super Bowl which makes it difficult to find the balance on a day like today!