Archive | January, 2008

I heart my new speakers

19 Jan

Harman Kardon SoundSticks IIWhen I moved out of my last apartment (and the nice stereo system there), I didn’t realize that my laptop would become the center of my musical life, almost more than my instruments. I’m a power digital music user. To give you an idea, here are many of the musical things I use my computer for:

  • Listening to music (recreationally)
  • Learnig lyrics, melodies, and chord changes to songs
  • Slow songs down to learn and/or transcribe the mandolin or guitar parts
  • Transpose songs to different keys to learn the parts in a girl singer-friendly key (most bluegrass is sung by guys)
  • Transfer audio recordings of lessons, back-up tracks for practicing, recordings of new solos I make up to iTunes

You get the point. I should really have good speakers.

But it wasn’t until I realized I couldn’t finish working with our engineer on finishing mixing the Nellies‘ CD unless I could actually HEAR the mixes, that I finally bit the bullet. I read the CNET reviews, I read the feedback on Amazon, and I went for the cool-looking ones with the good sound but weird controls (otherwise known as the Harman Kardon SoundSticks II).

It sounds hyperbolic to describe new speakers as life-changing, but it’s really not. Music was starting to, um, bore me, which didn’t exactly put me in a panic — more like an identity crisis (who am I if I don’t devote a big chunk of my life to music). Now, I feel like I’ve found that joy of discovering new music again, only I’m listening to things that I’ve had on my computer for years. And when I heard how clearly Doyle Lawson’s mandolin comes through on the left speaker on the Bluegrass Album Band stuff, I couldn’t believe how I learned as much as I did on the Bluegrass Album Band Plan* with my teeny speakers.

Now playing: Buck Owens, 21 #1 Hits: Ultimate Collection.

*Bluegrass Album Band Plan (BGABP): A total bluegrass geek endeavor in which a few friends and I learned an entire album by the Bluegrass Album Band (a bluegrass supergroup) note-for-note Yeah, I’m a dork.

Escarole soup like Mom used to make

14 Jan

My mom is awesome in many ways, but she is not a memorable cook. Between working full-time, doing all the chores around the house (I still can’t believe sometimes that she didn’t assign us any and that we didn’t offer when we saw her work so hard), and being the go-to parent, she didn’t exactly have a lot of time. There are a few things that she made, though, that I loved: sloppy chicken (it was actually called Sunshine Chicken, but we renamed it after the sticky layer of marmalade that coated our hands after we ate it), chipped beef on toast, BLTs, and escarole soup.

I used to try to make her escarole soup, but the only virtue of my version was the limited number of ingredients: cheese tortellini, chicken stock, and escarole. It never had any flavor. Tonight, I decided to try it again, only with chard instead of escarole (admittedly, because I couldn’t remember what escarole looked like and was too embarrassed to ask at Lucky) and a quick consultation with a Giada De Laurentiis recipe for something similar.

It was so yummy and light yet filling and took about 20 minutes, start to finish. Go Mom.

Ingredients:

  • 1 32-oz. container of all-natural chicken broth that I bought to make the soup
  • 1 14-oz. can of low-sodium chicken broth that I found in our cupboard when I realized 32 oz. was not enough
  • 2 cups water to make up the difference and to thin out the broth
  • pepper, to taste
  • a generous pinch of parsley flakes
  • 1 20-oz. package of cheese tortellini
  • About 3/4 of a bunch of chard, washed well, ribs removed, and chopped into long strips (note: chard doesn’t shrink nearly as much as other greens, such as spinach or arugula, when they wilt, so pick a larger pot than you think you’ll need)
  • Pecorino Romano, shaved into thin slices for garnish
  1. Pour the various liquids into a large soup pot and bring to a simmer. Add pepper and parsley to taste.
  2. Add the pasta and let it cook for about 5 mins.
  3. Add the chard and let it wilt while the pasta finishes cooking, about 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Serve into bowls, shave a few slices of pecorino on top, add a dash of pepper, eat with yummy Italian bread like my favorite, Grace Baking’s Pugliese. Mangia.

So why was mine so terrible before? I used veggie stock (sorry vegetarians, it tastes weird here) and forgot to add pepper.

I’m a published photographer

14 Jan

A while back, someone from Schmap, an online travel guide, sent me an email saying they were considering using one of my Flickr photos for their Paris guide. Well, it was accepted! It’s kind of a boring shot, but exciting, nonetheless, that they included it. And to think, if it wasn’t for San Francisco’s Amnesia, I never would have taken this image. Thanks, Shawn.

Check it out: Amnesia, Paris, on Schmap.com. Click on the bar name and you’ll see a slightly larger photo in the right-hand column. They put it in Montparnasse, but it’s actually in the Marais.

Guitarists Need Pictures

7 Jan

My friends over at Fretboard Journal just posted this link in their hilarious music-geek blog, so I’m posting it too. So funny because it’s so true.