Saturday, February 1, 2014

that girl can sing

tonight we went to the Straz Center to hear a concert by the Carolina Chocolate Drops.  Phil lured me there with an assertion that they were old time music performers... he failed to mention the fiddle would play a prominent role.   This is a shame because while the young lady Rhiannon Giddens who leads the group is a true powerhouse of a talent - there was waaaay too much fiddling going on for my taste... the thing about music - like wine drinking- you learn what you like and I DO NOT like the fiddle.

last week or the week before we were at the Haifa Symphony at Van Wezel and I LOVED the strings - I turned to Phil and said "These violins are always what I want fiddles to sound like and they never do"  I find them like fingernails on a chalk board - all screechy and ear splitting- and to tell you the truth I had a headache by intermission.

but here's the thing - this woman is a singular talent - her rendition of Ethel Waters "No Man's Mama" and an Odetta song "Water Boy" were just knock your socks off... when she is singing (or dancing) you could be carried away - but that damned fiddle just drove me over the edge- so I called the evening a neutral- not a waste but not a must see--- Phil called it a must see and when it comes to this gal's singing- I can agree she is a must hear/see.  Charismatic personality and the powerhouse voice make a pretty unbeatable combination.

so look out for their tour dates  and enjoy them but be forewarned- there is a lot of fiddling included....

here is a blurb about Rhiannon Giddens that I would whole-heartedly agree with-

Rhiannon is a show-stopper -- not only for her glorious voice but also for her incredible versatility. She ranges across many styles and genres, and is equally at ease singing opera, blues, gospel and Gaelic or whatever the moment takes. A rare talent!" -- Margaret Bennett, folklorist and singer.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

oh and food....

some how in the last post I forgot to mention food- oh and wine, I forgot to mention did that happen?  so we had been talking about finding a good BBQ place around here for a while, and last week I looked up the yelp reviews and found a likely candidate- Hickory Hollow over in Ellenton... open until 8PM LOL- so it is pretty much a lunch place for us...

we went there today for lunch and here is what I have to post about it- first a photo is worth a thousand words they say, so here is our picture:

LOL - OK so it really is I forgot to take pictures but that is completely what our plates looked like when we were finished... this was the remains of a pork shank we shared as an appetizer..

here is the menu we pulled off the Internet -

and here are a few outside shots of the place:

and one inside - along with the menu of the sides offered- 

so let me say this- I ordered the baby back ribs and mac&cheese and coleslaw with the corn fritters and LOVED all of it- everything was to my taste exactly.  Phil ordered the pork BBQ and baked beans and double corn fritters... and all my stuff won the "best ordering" contest.... beans were a little vinegar tasting to me and the pork shank and ribs were better than the plain pork BBQ- but still the place was a real winner in our opinion... we will return for sure.

just in time

I finished my China blog posts just in time to start the "critic's corner" LOL- where I spend the time reviewing trips to the theater and concerts etc... well, actually I have already started that with the Haifa Symphony last week and the whole Forks & Corks weekend thing but we are scheduled for at least four more concerts and five plays before I return to Chicago - so there will be plenty to talk about...

but here is the start- last nigh we saw Vanya & Sonia & Masha and Spike at the Asolo - and roared... yes seriously - there were parts I thought I might lose it and others where I made an effort to tone down my response because I thought this play was waaay funnier than some of the audience did-

I have criticisms - but they are nit picky and few- the script could be tighter and shorter - a good editor will solve its issues.  It needs to be paced a bit more quickly for the full element of farce to play to perfection but hey- I got more than tow hours of laughs out of it so who is going to quibble. I thought the casting was just a tad off - Masha wasn't quite STAR enough and Spike wasn't quite handsome enough (despite having a smokin body) but overall - I would give it a positive review.

so next up is a concert on Saturday night in Tampa- for those of you who couldn't tell me frequently enough what a mistake I had made in not seeing the Carolina Chocolate Drops last year at City Winery- well you can stop harping on me about it, because I agreed to go see them this weekend with Phil....

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

we head to Hangzhou

The guide book says that Marco Polo extolled the city as the world's most beautiful and magnificent city. And it is very very green. And teeming with tourists from all over China.  We take a high speed train from Shanghai and are there in 90 minutes or so.  We arrive on Friday and meet our guide Wilson.  He insists that we go to the tea growing village immediately because the weekend there are extremely crowded with city dwellers who escape the city to spend time there.  So off we go... We stop for lunch at a local restaurant run by a family Wilson knows- we have a nice meal overlooking the tea growing village and the hillsides of tea plants...

after a lecture about tea growing and harvesting we are treated to tea tasting and sales pitch that we fall for (we came home with three kinds of teas all supposedly to help us get health and slim! LOL)

after that we head to check into our hotel where we again have superb accommodations - and we have dinner there at a beautiful restaurant - where Larry wins the ordering roulette and has some fabulous pork belly thing that is to die for... I develop a stuffy nose during dinner and start drinking massive amounts of tea hoping to ward off a cold... early to bed - with the same thought in mind...

the view from our lunch table-

the beautiful tea plantation where we did our tasting-

our fabulous hotel rooms over look wonderful gardens or the pool-

the grounds of the Four Seasons West Lake are stunning! our room overlooks the pool- below

a walk around the grounds shows some of the lovely landscape-

the pool has an unusual design - kind of above ground level- and it sits in a fountain....

there is a spa on site- and the stair down to it is a work of art in itself---

the next morning we are off to the temples and pagodas- the day is rainy but that doesn't seem to discourage the crowds- we would have done better to plan this city as a mid week trip rather than ending up here on the weekend...but alas - who knew????

by the end of this foray out to the temples/pagodas my cold has overtaken me and I ask to be dropped at the hotel before the boys continue on for their West Lake touring-

Wilson suggests we do lunch first because the boat ride on the West Lake would be nicer if the weather cleared up - so I go along to lunch and order soup- which was perfect- the boys have duck and other goodies but I am so under the weather I take no further photos to help me remember the meal.

The three of them get dropped off by the boats and the driver takes me about five minutes more - to the hotel where I go to bed and sleep for more than sixteen hours- we are traveling back to Hong Kong tomorrow and I hope to get this handled by drinking massive quantities of tea (located in the mini bar/coffee area of the room) and lots of sleep.  The boys go out to dinner at a place with nothing but Chinese on the menu and have a terrific meal (per their later report) but I stay back in the room and sleep more...

the next day we fly (more than an hour late - LOL) to Hong Kong - and arrive around 6 PM- we take separate cabs to our hotels which are near each other but not the same- we have booked a room on Amex points at the Intercontinental Hong Kong which is in Kowloon and overlooks Hong Kong - we have been upgraded from our already swanky room - to a massive room on the top floor--- with views to die for.

Larry comes over because we have booked a farewell/birthday meal at the fancy Chinese restaurant at the hotel which is award winning Michelin star etc... we have a lovely meal as an end to a wonderful trip... my cold seems to be somewhat under control so the evening is very enjoyable... the wait person overhears us discussing dessert and it being Larry's birthday so they bring us a special birthday treat that is treasured by Chinese - a dumpling thingie that defies description- so I will just post the photo... it is steamed and has sweet sticky something (maybe mincemeat) in the center- one for each of us.... LOL

so it is off to bed for all of us-we have a late morning flight back to Chicago and Larry has an early morning high speed ferry to Macao- we know we will see each other in about eight weeks or so for Christmas when Steve and Suzanne come to visit Florida... meanwhile we have had a terrific trip and discovered a lot more of China that is off the beaten tourist path for westerners... loads of fun!

I did not get over that cold for several weeks- it was so bad that I went to the doctor about it, thinking I had contracted some dread Asian variety of cold virus.  But when I got to the waiting room at the doctor's office I found out everyone in Chicago had the same cold I did - must have all been to China too! LOL

I may have a few additional thoughts on the trip to post later but for now this is  the last post from the trip. And not a moment too soon since Georgia and I are headed to Morocco in two weeks -  oh and YES, I do have a big birthday coming up as well.... turning the big 5-0 LOL -  not!!!! I just feel like that...