Monday, September 29, 2014

Public nudity

The naked human body has been in the news a lot recently.
First, there has been some protest over an art installation at Discovery Green. Some of the statues (not all) depict a naked man. I've seen the statues in question. Honestly, I barely blinked.

The argument is that there are children in the park. But when I was there weekend before last, most of the children didn't even notice the statues. They were focused on the fountains and the animals (there was a wildlife exhibit going on). Static bronze statues can't compete with running through water or seeing a hawk close up. 
It reminds of a fuss some people made about a replica of Michelangelo's "David" being placed on the roof of an Italian restaurant in the Woodlands.  They said it was inappropriate at a venue where there were children. However, there were similarly unclothed female statues at the location, and nobody was making a fuss about them. My theory is that they're worried that the girls/women are going to make mental notes and compare. (or worse, point and giggle).
Later, in the same week, Dancing with the Stars had a performance where Julianne Hough wore a costume that was quite covered up, but gave the appearance of a lot of skin. Of course, there were people saying that it was too much. Seriously? This is ballroom dancing. Competition (particularly in Latin) requires outfits that are best described as "tight", "short" or "missing".

She wore this in an earlier season, and nobody said anything, but they are making a fuss over a flesh-colored body stocking? I've seen bathing suits that covered less. And this is the 19th season of the show; if you are shocked at this point, it's a self-inflicted wound.

The main argument, in both instances, was that these were at locations and times that children could see them. So what?  Everybody has a body (even children). Wouldn't it be healthier if we just accepted that? 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Seasonal Decorating

We've had a cold front, and I find myself changing the look of the house. Retiring the bright colors that seemed right for summer, and looking for richer colors to complement the new season. I've removed the blue and white tablecloth. Preferring, for now, to appreciate the table's black painted finish. I get gourds from the market and candles from the closet to make a centerpiece.

I move the ferns to a window where they will get more light and debate if I should put the blue water jars in the closet for the winter.  

I look at the mantel and think about what I have that can liven it up. I check my closets and kitchen and find a pair of black jasperware bowls, that filled with colorful leaves and greenery, will add some life to the mantel, and complement the painting above it.

Do I have to buy anything?  I visit the local crafts stores and look at the silk florals, thinking about ways to fill those bowls.  I try a few arrangements, but everything is too bright and covered with glitter. I end up going home and using what I already have.

I’m looking at the rest of the house with a critical eye, wondering what I can do to freshen it up a little. Change the bedspread? Put candles in the library?

These changes are not necessary. They are grace notes, a way of acknowledging the changing seasons and stretching my creative muscles a little.

Do you do seasonal (not holiday) decorating?

Monday, September 15, 2014

A visit to San Juan, in pictures

The first week of September, I went to San Juan, Puerto Rico. I stayed in the old city, partly because it's got the oldest architecture and highest density of museums, and partly because I wanted to be able to walk everywhere.

Rainy day in the capitol
Overall, it was sunny and warm and pretty, full of interesting animals

iguana at El Morro

Parrots - unfortunately green birds in green trees don't show very well
Small chapel in the cathedral
I don't know what this building is, but I liked the colors
and handicrafts unique to the island.

Carved saints (santos) are a traditional craft. The Magi are very popular subjects.
This is the three kings playing dominoes with Santa Claus.

Painted soda bottles - tourists really will buy anything

But I just enjoyed the chance to be somewhere new and to spend days doing nothing but taking pictures. (and tasting rum, but that's another story...)

Spanish fort - El Morro

The cobblestones in old San Juan are blue. The contrast with the red petals was too much to pass up.

I just really liked the door knocker

painted ox-cart wheel - Museo de las Americas

Bacardi factory tour (meh - at least it was free)

leftover from the World Cup

Arches - Castillo San Cristobal

The most colorful basketball court I've ever seen

wall art

Friday, September 12, 2014

Weekend Possibilities

It's Fall! Time for the new theater season!
One of the wonderful things about living in Houston is the enormous number of arts offerings available. There's everything: opera, ballet, independent theater, blues bands, fine arts shows, antique and design fairs, even the worlds largest Quilting Convention.  There's bound to be something that tickles your fancy, and if the arts isn't your thing there's always the Gun and Knife Show.
This weekend includes (among many other things):

     Houston Antiques Art and Design Show

     Houston Fine Art Fair

     Wings of the City - an art installation at Discovery Green

     Salsa y Salud - salsa music and dance at Miller Outdoor Theater

I have found few things as budget friendly as cultivating an interest in the arts. You can get into a lot of things for free. Get on the mailing lists, they'll let you know what's coming and sometimes they'll even send you tickets.
This evening, I'm taking in Full Gallop, a play about Diana Vreeland, the famous editrix of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. The Anna Wintour of her day, she famously fired someone for walking too loudly. She is known for her pronouncements:
  • Exaggeration is my only reality.
  • The bikini is the most important thing since the atom bomb.
  • The best thing about London is Paris
  • Too much good taste can be boring.

She was a character. This should be fun.

Friday Fun Video
One of my favorite songs from Funny Face. Miss Prescott is supposedly based upon Mrs. Vreeland.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Soba Peanut Salad

I'm back! And I have lots to tell you and all sorts of pretty pictures, but it may take a few more days because it takes time to sort through 600+ pictures. (I wish I was exaggerating).  So by Friday, Monday at the latest, I will have some lovely shots of where I was last week.  In the meantime, there's salad.
Mint, scallions, and cucumber
Since it is nominally Autumn, I decided to make a somewhat heavier salad, with noodles. It's a transition towards heavier fare and also brings back some of the Japanese elements and flavors I was playing with earlier in the year.

This is a great salad to pack for lunch It's not drippy, because the noodles have absorbed the dressing, it's got protein and fat to make it filling, and the vegetables used are not the sort that wilt quickly, but maintain their crunch until lunchtime. I find it a little overly peanut-y, but that may just be me. I also think the 1/2 a lime for the whole dish is nowhere near enough. There should be a 1/4  lime per serving, at least.

I love the way the Japanese package noodles, so tidy.
From the pictures you will notice that I didn't use the spinach mentioned in the recipe, and this is because I didn't pay attention to the shopping list. But I had bean sprouts on hand, and I think they add a nice crunch.

This is a really tasty and easy salad, and it's something you could conceivably serve to vegans, if you have friends that swing that way. 

Soba Peanut Salad 

Serves 6 to 8

1 pound soba noodles
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup natural creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup strong brewed black tea (regular or decaf)
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup reduced sodium tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar or rice vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 lime
2 cups English or Persian cucumber, thinly sliced
5 ounces baby spinach
1/2 cup mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
3 scallions, thinly sliced

Cook the soba noodles in a large pot of salted boiling water according to package directions. Be sure to give them a good stir every now and then, especially at the beginning, so that they don’t clump up. Drain, rinse with cold water, and transfer to large bowl. Toss with 1 teaspoon sesame oil. 

In the meantime, combine the olive oil, peanut butter, tea, garlic cloves, tamari or soy sauce, mirin, vinegar, honey, red pepper flakes, and juice from 1/4 of the lime in a blender, then blend until smooth. Taste and add additional lime juice if desired. Pour the sauce over the warm noodles and toss to combine. The mixture will look quite soupy at this point, but the noodles will absorb the sauce as they chill. Refrigerate noodles for at least 1 hour, and up to 24 hours. 

Layer the scallions, cucumbers, spinach, mint, and peanuts over the noodles. At this point, the salad can be covered again and refrigerated for an additional 4 hours, or it can be tossed together with tongs and served.