nate-simple breakfast

>> Sunday, July 18, 2010

i first had sweet coconut rice in Thailand. they serve it with fresh mango as a dessert. it's not a complex dessert...unlike my favorite, tiramisu...but you'll be hard pressed to find a better tasting dessert.

i made the coconut rice/mango dessert for my friend, emily, on friday night. it was my first effort, and i didn't (as usual) investigate any tips or tricks. i did talk to my friend, jamie, who made the wise suggestion of cutting the milk with an equal part of water. the rice came out perfect but wasn't as sweet as how it's served in Thailand. this morning i remedied the sweetness when i reheated some of the (waaaay too much) leftover rice i had. just one half tsp of sugar sprinkled into a whole bowl was plenty. it brought out the natural sweetness of the coconut milk. i added sliced bananas to the rice and had a simple delicious breakfast. so here's all it takes.

1 can of coconut milk
1/4 cup of sugar
2 cups of rice

in a medium sized pot, pour the coconut milk and sugar. fill the can with water, add, and stir. bring the mixture to a low boil. add the rice and stir well. turn off the heat and cover the pot. in about 20 minutes you'll have soft, sweet coconut rice.

sliced mango, sliced banana...there's probably a dozen things you could add, for breakfast or dessert. i think dates might be pretty tasty, too.


nate-long time absent

wow...haven't been on this blog for a while. i've been busy, to be fair, but i've also experienced some great things over the past year and a half. i'll put a few up now and do my best to make time to keep up a bit.



>> Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"He makes the rain to fall on both the just and unjust..."

to be sure i have no idea into which category any of the following musicians and composer fall, but i for one am glad for God's equal love and provision for all men. and today's inauguration put that thought squarely in my mind as i watched and listened to cellist Yo Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman, clarinetist Anthony McGill, and pianist Gabriella Montero play "Air and Simple Gifts", arranged by John Williams.

i am not familiar with the works of John Williams beyond the numerous soundtrack works he's done, so perhaps he's already got volumes of similar works to this one finished specifically for the events of the day. if so, i must dig deeper into his catalog. i know him as someone who has mastered the orchestra...well, the orchestra and that infamous "da dah...da dah" line from Jaws. it's quite another thing to master a work for four individual instruments. i am not surprised at his ability to do this...i've just not heard it before. and no string quartet. no piano, guitar, bass, drums. violin, cello, clarinet, and piano. i also don't recall that grouping in a four piece before. it was an amazing combination, with a stunning sound specifically from Anthony McGill and his clarinet.

i'm well aware of the talents of Itzhak Perlman. my mother and father listened to classical music often in our home as i was growing up, and Itzhak Perlman was always one of the featured artists. in my teens i was unaware of how he was the perfect combination of technique and feel. i just thought he was really good. now, with many more years of being a musician under my belt, i know how rare the combination of both in one artist actually is. he was perfect today...with no sub-freezing temps...on a hollow wood stringed instrument.

Yo Yo Ma is every bit his equal, and showed it today. same issues of temp and instrument, and yet he flawlessly matched the violin note for note. not just matched, but blended. there were moments that seemed list one mind was playing the two well it should have. still, in a world where "feat: ____" is added after the title of many songs, and getting full recognition is so important, these men choose to be equal, and excel together and for each other. granted, they can't get much more recognition than they currently have, but lots of other stars have done their best to outshine those with whom they share a stage.

Anthony McGill...we hardly knew you. but that's gonna change. my brother played clarinet growing up. i heard Benny Goodman, Acker Bilk, Jimmy Dorsey, Peewee Russell, Pete Fountain, and Bud Freeman growing up. clarinet was for jazz. i mean, it was present in the orchestras, too, but i never heard clarinet as a prominent classical solo instrument. maybe the lone exception was Tchaikovsky's Peter and the Wolf. but back to Anthony. i never heard a clarinet sound like Anthony made that one sound today. rest assured i'll be looking for more work by him.

Gabriella Montero was more in a support role today, backing this beautiful piece. i'm sure she's quite gifted, as well. i'll look for her, too.

it was a moving day today. the power of the written and spoken word held us captivated for much of it. and while Aretha Franklin should have her own piece written for her work on My Country 'Tis of Thee, i was once again struck by the strength of notes on paper, played by fingers destined for greatness. it does, in fact, drive home a point about Barack Obama and leadership. his faith is dismantled and debated by tens of thousands who doubt a man can bring about good without the words they would hear from the preacher of their choice. but just like the rain, and musical talents, leadership falls on the just and unjust. and if he will lead "justly", then at worst he counters the "just" who lead badly.

(sorry for the brief exit from the artistic bent of this blog) :-)


nate-dining out/in

>> Friday, January 2, 2009

so...on the demerits of a much better, but bum ankle, and the weariness of the past 4 months of work, conference prep, family matters, holidays, and the actual conference, i decided to stay in on New Year's Eve. there were multiple great parties to choose from, and friends in from out of town that i missed seeing, but after another long night of sleep last night, my body, mind, and soul are grateful for the rest and relaxation.

i had a kitchen full of macaroni and cheese, soup, and other tidbits, but i thought i might treat myself to a nice dinner ordered in. i went to, which is where i usually go for chinese food when i do order out. while perusing who might actually be delivering on NYE, i found La Gondola restaurant. i ride the bus past this place all the's pretty unassuming. i mean, it looks like a place i'd like, but i didn't expect a culinary delight to come out of it.

here's what i ordered.

Calamari Ripieni Alla Griglia

whole calamari stuffed with our own italian breading, olive oil, chopped garlic ,butter mixture and baked to perfection, served with sautéed broccoli.

this was one of the more delicious seafood dinners i've ever had. the calamari was tender, with no rubbery feeling when cutting or chewing. the breading was almost like a stuffing or dressing you might find with turkey, but light and fluffy. and there was so much calamari in the dinner it could easily have been dinner for two. i ate half for my dinner, and the rest for lunch the next day.

i did a little research on this restaurant and found it to be the best rated italian restaurant in the city...better than Italian Village, Rosebud, and the rest of the Little Italy authentic places. i have no experience with their pasta, but this meal was of those meals where one pauses after the first bite, and then slowly savors each following bite.

the meal was $15 but it was easily as much calamari as 2-3 calamari appetizers in any other restaurant, so the value was quite good.
i can't speak to the ambiance of the actual restaurant, although it looks nice from the outside. however, if the food is any indication, i'd have to recommend La Gondola as an wonderful option for a date night, or celebration dinner, or even a night out with friends.

La Gondola is at 2914 N Ashland, between Diversey and Belmont, on the west side of the street in the Jewel shopping center strip mall. give it a shot...see what you think.



>> Tuesday, December 23, 2008

how i Handel the holidays...

i live a pretty tradition-free life. there's the once a year Lanfest with my GeezerGamer boyz (woot!), there's leading Christmas carols one sunday in december at my church...that's about it, i guess. well, add one to the short list.

this is my 4th time in five years of attending the Do-It-Yourself Messiah at the Civic Opera House here in Chicago. i went with my sister, Georgia, this year. (you can read her take on it HERE).

it's fairly well known that despite my 6'3", 240 lb, manly frame, i'm a softie at heart. i can tear up at a commercial for coffee (i DO really love coffee...maybe that's why). add to THIS to the mix and you'll pretty much know how i feel about Messiah by Handel.

If you're not familiar with the story of Messiah, and how it came to be, i encourage you to read about it. the back story is very interesting. it took just 24 days to compose this complex and moving baroque masterpiece.

it's divided thematically into three parts. the first is christmas, or advent. the next would be the passion section, concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus. and the last part concerns itself with the return of Jesus, or 2nd coming, as it's often called. i have heard and read these stories in the Bible for as long as i can remember. i connect deeply to them, mostly during the seasons in which the first two are celebrated, and in remembering my father and others who have passed away trusting in the truth of each part. maybe it's due to being an artist, but much like the film, The Passion of the Christ, did in fleshing out the realities of those days in Jesus' life, Messiah often brings me to the place where i cannot even sing due to my emotional response.

it's more than one thing that causes this in me. as the post i wrote about music shows, i cannot listen to such music ambivalently. classical music is my favorite style, which gets me going upon simply seeing the orchestra. Messiah is often in minor keys, and is often in 3/4, 3/8, and 6/8 time...more things that draw me into it. and while the choral parts are 1/4 and 1/8 note nightmares to sightread, (see "And He Shall Purify"), and probably 30% of the people at this DIY Messiah have no ability to do so, when we DO know the song (e.g. Hallelujah chorus), or Handel gives our brain to vocal chord neural pathways a break (e.g. Since By Man Came Death or Worthy Is The Lamb) it's an amazing thing to hear an orchestra and three thousand people bring a little bit of what the angels probably sound like (i'm assuming they don't have pitch problems).

there's the especially beautiful moments of music, too. when the Overture ends and the orchestra starts into Comfort Ye My's pretty nearly perfect...and then the tenor makes it completely so as he begins to sing. then there's the choral piece, For Unto Us A Child Is Born...and i have the same thoughts that Chopin's music often causes..."who thinks like this?" the movement and melody and counter-melody. to write something like that with the help of music software seems near impossible. paper and pen? it's almost like Handel had multiple personality disorder and each of them were singing a part in his head at the same time. the way "the kingdom of this become..." starts so quietly after a rather enthusiatic entrance to the song (Hallelujah chorus) and crescendos into "THE KINGDOM OF OUR LORD AND OF HIS CHRIST...AND OF HIS CHRIST!" move it so far in so short a time without it feeling awkward or herky-jerky (a highly technical composer term)'s so sweet. the soprano's beautiful melody on "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth", the matching of music to lyrics in "The Trumpet Shall Sound" and the feeling like there's millions of voices just out of earshot singing along in "Worthy Is The Lamb"...each of these musical points is my favorite moment in the entire Messiah...whichever one is currently happening.

but it's not only that deep bond to the music. each year i participate in this, and live, and see the world, and long for His Kingdom, the lyrics...simply scripture...become more powerful, more reassuring, more comforting, more encouraging, and more strengthening. several times this year i couldn't sing simply because the thought of the truth being sung, whether by the DIY chorus, or the soloist, was simply too much to take it. these are the stories, thoughts, truths, that i've heard for many years, and believe with as much of my heart happens not to be commandeered by me at any given moment. the music, especially well composed to match the words being sung, connects me to that truth even more. Handel's Messiah literally draws me to worship, probably more than any other musical piece, chorus, or hymn. God's word is a story...from front to back. it's the story of His love for us, our creating a unbridgeable gap, and His pursuit and intervention and sacrifice to close the gulf between Him and man. Messiah is like a 2 1/2 hour cliff notes version of this story that started before time.

the rest of this post is over on my other blog as it pertains less to the artistic part of this and more how my life relates to it.

as for the "resolve" part of this...i resolve to actually learn my part. not sure which. maybe both tenor and bass. but i simply don't sing by sightreading enough anymore to step in and do that. in high school? no problem. i was in every choir they'd let me be a part of. now? this is the only day of the year i have to do it. and this score is like painting the sistine chapel by paint by number. not where you want to start, even with it mapped out. i'm gonna know this thing next year. and the year after that. probably three years out from now i'll start forgetting...but for the next two years? look out!


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