Monthly Archives: August 2013

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sea

The Weekly Photo Challenge theme “Sea” for this week is quite open to interpretation. Since I have been thinking a lot about the unrest in the Middle East this week, I go to my Holy Land photo album. I have picked pictures that show how blue and expansive the sea is.

The Sea of Galilee, Israel

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Looking out to the Mediterranean Sea from a bus, near Kos, Greece

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The Mediterranean Sea, from near Tel Aviv, Israeal

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Chicken Four Ways (Part 1)

I have been following many adult bloggers who talk about sending their kids back to school at the end of the summer. This is one of the few blogs by a young person I’ve been following to reassure us parents that some students do pay attention to what they eat. Enjoy!

Bea's Bites

One of the great things about summer as a student is having the time to experiment with new recipes. I am not a self-professed meat lover, and let’s face it, cooking grains or legumes is so much less pressure. That said I am happy to add these simple chicken recipes to my repertoire.

First I started with drumsticks. I made Shutterbean’s Honey Lime Drumsticks.  I marinated the chicken in a honey, lime and minced garlic for a couple hours. Next time I will marinate it for longer, at least overnight. I didn’t have a grill, so I roasted these in the oven at 400 F for about 45 minutes, until the chicken reached an internal temperature of 165F. Then I broiled them for a few minutes to get a grilled-look. These were quite tasty and the marinade was so easy to mix together. My goal for next summer is…

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Fungi Time

This must have been a good season for fungi, for I keep sighting mushrooms of various shapes, sizes and colours on the trails.

What is amazing though is that I discover that some of them are hard, suggesting that they somehow have hardened to endure the winter and continued their growth in the warmer seasons.

Fellow hiker-photographer Kenne has spotted fungi on his hikes too. Do check them out.

Weekly Photo Challenge: FOCUS

The theme Focus in the latest Weekly Photo Challenge is a challenging exercise in photography to me. My ever so talented blog friend Mrs. Carmichael just took out her camera and captured two beautiful images to illustration the theme.  Given the limitations of my camera, I have to rely on what I have taken by serendipity in my album. However, thanks to the features of Picasa, I hope I am getting closer.

Visiting the Big Buddha on Lantao Island, Hong Kong:

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The Three Goddesses:

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Peering through an arch in a inner city lane in Israel:
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Finally, enjoying a beer in Montreal:

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Symphony of A Thousand at the Brott Music Festival

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Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 is also known as the Symphony of a Thousand. Although there is no absolute requirement to have a thousand musicians to perform the piece, it certainly requires a considerably big orchestra and a choir to produce the desired musical force. The National Academy Orchestra (NAO) chose this piece to be the grand finale of their season at the Brott Music Festival. This was an ambitious project and I was among the audience to support the NAO in this performance at Hamilton Place, Hamilton, Ontario.

In this composition, Mahler departed from the conventional form and divided the symphony in only two parts. He composed his music to the 9th century hymn Veni Creator Spiritus (“Come, Creator Spirit”) in Part I and for Part II, the words came from the closing scene (Act V, Scene 7) of Goethe’s Faust. I knew neither Latin nor German, and so I was delighted to  receive a copy of the words with English translation with my programme notes.

The first part featured Apprentice Conductor Brandan Hagan, who led the orchestra and the combined Arcady Singers and Junior Arcady Singers to a powerful and convincing performance. The baton was handed over to Maestro Boris Brott after the intermission. Maestro Brott guided the audience in a journey through the penitent and the mystical passages to the climax of the symphony. The brass instruments blared and thus announced the triumph of the human spirit and salvation (of Faust’s and all humankind) made possible by a woman’s love.

The vocal parts were beautifully sang by the soloists. The sopranos made it look easy when they sustained their parts in high range with superb tonal control, and all the voices, particularly the tenor, performed brilliantly over the might of the orchestra and choirs.

It was a dazzling musical feast with an orchestra about 100 strong and two hundred members in the choirs. The NAO brought back some of their graduates and the leadership came from professional musicians who took the principal parts. Concertmaster was Mark Skazinetsky, Associate Concertmaster with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Existing NAO members were undoubtedly mentored by a superb team. Although Mahler acknowledged that this was his “biggest” work, he never endorsed the number “a thousand”. I whole-heartedly enjoyed what I experienced with the NAO this evening.

I also liked the departure from the black attire orchestral members normally wore during performances. Female musicians wore colourful evening dresses which enlivened the mood. (They did the same when they played the Brandenburg Concerti.) After all, Mahler’s Symphony 8 rejoiced in the enlightenment of the human soul, and definitely it was not the most sombre and saddest of his symphonies. Besides, this was a summer music festival–Why not brighten our world with some colours?

The last note brought the audience immediately to a standing ovation. It was said that when Symphony 8 was first performed, the audience applauded for almost half an hour. This record had yet to be matched, but the NAO, the Arcady Singers and the Junior Choir were on their feet for over five minutes while the audience brought the conductor and soloists back on stage for three or four curtain calls. The NAO rounded up another triumphant season.

POSTSCRIPT

When I want to hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 8, this is my favourite YouTube clip, because Leonard Bernstein is one of my favourite conductors.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NSYEOLwVfU8

House of Gourmet: A Chinatown Staple

Have you had the experience of walking aimlessly in town looking for a place to eat? This was what happened to me and my family in Chinatown on Spadina Street in Toronto recently. There were so many Chinese restaurants and we did not come here often enough to have a restaurant to always go to. What saved us was the rule of thumb that never failed: only go to a place to eat if there are a lot of people there. We peeped inside the House of Gourmet and this was what we saw:

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“This is safe to go in,” said my husband. Unlike some busy restaurants where we had to wait indefinitely for someone to show us where to sit, we were ushered to our table promptly, and the waiter came with the tea and the menu.

Another rule of thumb I use when I go for a Chinese meal is to pick what I do not normally make at home. For the four of us we ordered steamed eel with garlic and black bean sauce, stir fry neck of pig, roast duck and stir fried vegetables (tong choi) with bean curd.

The complimentary soup of the day, melon soup, was tasty, and so were the dishes we ordered. The eels were served steaming hot and the neck of pig was stir fried to perfection, bringing out the texture of the meat that it was known for. The skin of the roast duck was crispy and the meat tender. The vegetables were freshly in season. We enjoyed the food with plain rice and were utterly content.

When we left the restaurant, we were aware of its traditional setup with the take-out counter, where one could buy barbecue pork, roast pork and roast duck on one side and the open kitchen preparing noodles and dumplings on the other.

I shall feel comfortable to return to the House of Gourmet next time I look for a restaurant in Chinatown or to buy take-out. I may even consider it to be my Chinatown staple.

The House of Gourmet, 484 Dundas Street West, Toronto, Ontario.

House of Gourmet on Urbanspoon

Weekly Photo Challenge: CAREFREE

I took this picture when I was in Macau: the cycle rickshaw man lit his cigarette and he looked so relaxed in his cart. “How carefree, ” I thought.

So for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, I look through my photo album to find this image to share with you. Hope you are enjoying some carefree moments too.

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