Sunday, April 17, 2011


A friend once said, upon our disagreeing about something-or-other, the object of which is long since forgotten, "that is why they make both chocolate and vanilla."

We had a busy weekend, one that brought many pleasant surprises.

On Friday Kim and Maggie and Sam fended for themselves for the evening while I met up with an old friend to spend the night time traveling, via a concert by the rock band Rush. It was great fun, and it had been so long since the last time I was at a rock concert which made it all the more fun- thumping music that you feel as well as hear. And this particular group was one that resonated with my serious, musical teen self some thirty years ago. Back then I loved the stories told in the dense, complicated lyrics, the polyrhythmic music set to time by the magical drumming of Neil Peart. I think I also liked that not everyone else "got" this band, but my friends and I did. Journey or The Cars seemed such simpletons in comparison. I saw them perform twice in the early 80s, but after college my musical tastes changed and I didn't really listen to them much any more. But listening now, I'm still drawn by the power of their "hits" (though top 40 they certainly never have been), perhaps because of the memories associated with that music from so long ago. It was a good night out with an old friend.

In the picture above, Sam investigates a shelf of leather-bound volumes at his grandmother's house. New to crawling, such explorations are his bread and butter these days. I kept an eye on him but allowed him to select a volume on his own. And what did he choose? Great Expectations. So perhaps taste- literary in any case- is acquired genetically?

Friday also saw the long-delayed delivery (via persistence and tact on the part of Kim with the local postal authorities) of a box sent from Anna and her host family. Her host father listed "French specialties" on the customs form, attempting to mask with words the reality of the foodie contents within, a difficulty masking job considering the odor of the two types of fresh (or rather, formerly fresh) soft cheeses. We sliced into both this afternoon and were saddened by their inability to survive the poor handling and the long duration of their transit. I sampled each of them and found them reasonably tasty but sadly lacking in the texture at which they are best served. I was particularly sad that the cheese produced in Anna's province, six small rounds of goat cheese, had hardened beyond repair. I pulled out my trusty French cheese guide book, the Eyewitness Handbook of French Cheese, and tried to identify what I had before me. I think it is either Le Cornilly or Santranges. Their odor was... well, quite significant, and the flavor nutty and wild. And not necessarily appreciated by the whole of the household. Again, taste is a funny thing. I look forward to sampling some fresh examples sometime soon.

The other delicacies included some biscotti-like snacks, a bottle of walnut oil pressed within walking distance of Anna's village, a bottle of violet flavored (seriously!) syrup that one adds to drinks, and finally, the piece de resistance, a bottle of wine from Menetou-Salon. The latter we've not yet sampled, but I investigated the vineyard. In the AOC, they grow only pinot noir grapes for their red wines and sauvignon for their white. Anna can see the vineyards from her bedroom window.

Maggie and I enjoyed more music on Sunday, a matinee performance by opera students at the Cleveland Institute of Music in which they performed costumed scenes from a wide range of operas during the first half of the show. They were all fantastic, but my favorite was a duet scene from Smetana's The Bartered Bride. In the second half they performed an energetic take on the early Gilbert and Sullivan one act short opera Trial by Jury, which was quite fun.

And finally, a photo of a little guy and his big sister, who always makes him smile.

Monday, April 4, 2011

One Hundred Years

We are fortunate to be visiting family for a very special occasion- the 100th birthday celebration of Grandma Esther. For the occasion, Pam and Doug hosted a festive celebration, with family and friends gathering at their home to celebrate. Her youngest guest, not quite one year old, was small Sam, who dressed in his best for the occasion.

Gabi greeting the guests.

Father and daughter conversation.

We took the opportunity- everyone showered and wearing swank clothing- to take some group photos.

The joy of sisters.

Smith siblings.

Esther listening to Roger spin a tale.



Bryan and Jeffrey.

Esther and her youngest guest.

Lad and Mom.

More Sisters!

Somewhere over the rainbow.

Sam and Haley high-five.