July: Looking back, looking ahead.

Iconic Seattle view, my old Seattle apartment, beloved Seattle friends.

Iconic Seattle view, my old Seattle apartment, beloved Seattle friends.

I am absolutely crazy about these girls...

I am absolutely crazy about these girls…

I returned from my Pacific Northwest mini-tour late on Saturday, and have had just a couple of days in which to frantically catch up on emails, eat some Jewish soul food, and pack another bag.  The gals of DUCHESS and I are planning to motor west, as the song goes: tomorrow, we board a flight to Tulsa and hit the historic “highway that’s the best” as part of Rifftime’s Route 66 Linear Music Festival.  It’s going to be a lot of fun, and the perfect capper to a whirlwind month of travel, music, and friends.

Returning to my old stomping grounds of Seattle was soul-satisfying in the best possible ways: I reunited with loved ones, finally met some cyber-friends face-to-face, played to a full house at the club where I sang jazz for the first time, took the stage at my alma mater’s gorgeous outdoor amphitheater, and performed barefoot in a Portland garden at twilight for a small but delightful audience.  Oh, and I ate pâté at my beloved Le Pichet and sipped sparkling rosé at David Butler’s Le Caviste.  It really couldn’t have been more wonderful.

This little photographic travelogue is evidence that, in fact, you can go home again.  My heart is very full, and I send heartfelt thanks to everyone who made my return to the Pacific Northwest so magical.

In July, I…
Blogged about: Gigging in Las Vegas & LA.  Singer-Friend Janis Siegel.  Tomatoes, ripe & sweet.

Watched: Divergent.  I saw this film on the plane…Delta, you rocked my world with the on-demand programming on those cross-country flights!

Read: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins.  Between the Hunger Games trilogy and my in-flight viewing, it seems I have a bit of a fondness for dystopian dramas helmed by a feisty female lead character.  I cannot wait to see this movie.

Listened to: DUCHESS mixes!  Our debut album has been mixed, mastered, and will be released in early 2015.  We can’t wait for you to check out our girl-on-girl harmony!  In the meantime, keep up with our Route 66 hijinks on Rifftime’s Route 66 Linear Music Festival Facebook Page, as well as Duchess’ own Instagram and Twitter feeds.

Singing at Tula's, where I did some of my first gigs ever.  Bottom right: Reunited with Aaron & Leo, my first bandmates.

Singing at Tula’s, where I did some of my first gigs ever. Bottom right: Reunited with Aaron & Leo, my first bandmates.

A Seattle nightclub, a Tacoma amphitheater, and a Portland garden...3 beautiful gigs.

A Seattle nightclub, a Tacoma amphitheater, and a Portland garden…3 beautiful gigs.

Mt. Rainier even came out to say goodbye...until next time, Seattle!

Mt. Rainier even came out to say goodbye…until next time, Seattle!

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June: Looking back, looking ahead.

Singing "Over the Rainbow" at the US Open, led by conductor David Michael Wolff

Singing “Over the Rainbow” at the US Open, led by conductor David Michael Wolff

You guys.  It’s July tomorrow, for crying out loud!  The summer is going by so quickly.  It’s not always easy, but I’m trying to remember to take time out for, well, doing nothing.  There’s a whole lot of busy-ness and business to take care of in our day-to-day lives, but I’ve found that taking an hour to read a book in the park or just stroll down a tree-lined street can make a huge difference in one’s mood and, yes, productivity.

My ode to leisure notwithstanding, June was fast-paced and filled with some pretty ridiculously fun gigs: DUCHESS brought girl-on-girl harmony to Birdland, I guested with the Carolina Philharmonic in a celebration of music from the movies and Broadway, and I teamed up with Joe Alterman, Jim Cammack, and Kevin Kanner for some jubilant, hard-swinging jazz in Greenwich Village and on Long Island.

DUCHESS

DUCHESS backstage at Birdland

Looking ahead, July is filled with travel!  This Thursday, I’m boarding a plane with George Gee and friends for a couple of back-to-back big band gigs in Las Vegas and Los Angeles.  Later in July, I’m heading out to the Pacific Northwest for a few shows in Seattle, Tacoma, and Portland.  And in the last few days of July, the DUCHESS gals and I are hitting the road: Route 66, to be exact.  We’ll be sharing the stage with Bruce Forman’s CowBop and a host of other entertainers as we perform in historic theaters along the “highway that’s the best,” as the song goes.

In June, I…

Blogged about: The Return of Ad Alta Voce.  Singer-Friend Amy Cervini.  The Greek Festival.  Words & Music.

Watched: Veep.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus, cursing like a sailor.  Tony Hale.  Gary Cole.  Need I say more?

Read: What Is Visible, by Kimberly Elkins.  A fictional portrayal of real-life Laura Bridgman, the first deaf and blind person to learn language.  Sad, fascinating, beautifully written.

Listened to: Maria Rita and Marisa Monte.  Both women gorgeously meld traditional bossa nova with contemporary songwriting and production for the perfect summer soundtrack.

Somewhere in the midst of all this music and travel, I’m hoping to make it to the beach for an afternoon of unfettered relaxation.  Seize the summer, everybody—let’s all heed these wise words from Ferris Bueller:

 

Welcome back!

I’ve missed you.  It’s been a while.  Too long.  As I recover from a minor but frustrating recent bout of vocal un-health (a spate of hoarseness brought on by allergies and good old “singing-too-damn-much” syndrome), I’ve had to keep silent for days on end.  Prolonged silence gives a girl time to think, and over the past few weeks some uncomfortable realities have floated to the surface of my psyche.

To wit: writers write, and I haven’t been.  Writing, that is.

There’s also the fact that I’ve felt disconnected from my creativity and physicality lately, and too overwhelmed to do anything but fixate in uneasy wonder on my inertia.  Having lost a dear friend just a year ago to a swift and brutal illness, I am feeling strongly the need to celebrate and inhabit life more fully, but instead, a nondescript sort of paralysis seems to have taken hold.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s a lot of wonderful stuff on the horizon.  For one thing, my debut album, The Great City, has found a home on a great label and will be officially released before the end of the year, probably this fall.  In the meantime, this summer’s gigs will take me to North Carolina, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Seattle, the Oklahoma leg of historic Route 66, and rural Pennsylvania.  I’ll be guesting with a symphony, fronting a big band, bringing my best straight-tone to an Anglican choir and singing as one-third of a 1930s-inspired vocal trio called DUCHESS.  It’s going to be a busy time, and I’m looking forward to all of it.

GoyGoneWildThe thing is, though, I don’t just want to be busy.  I want to find more joy in the everyday, whether I’m puttering in the kitchen, teetering precariously in a yoga pose, chatting with a friend over a pot of tea, or warming up my voice before a practice session.  Writing, for me, has always had a way of creating momentum and focus, and so I suppose that the revitalization of this blog is an attempt to light a proverbial fire under my tuchis.

In the coming weeks, I’ll introduce a “Spotlight On…” interview series with some smart, funny musical friends and colleagues; I have no doubt that their wisdom and insights will prove inspiring.  Foodie Tuesdays will return.  There will also, in all likelihood, be talk of yoga, the subway, life in the city, life in the country, travels near and far, and there will definitely be posts about the aforementioned musical happenings.  I hope you’ll check in from time to time and perhaps even share your thoughts in the comments.  Ad Alta Voce means “out loud,” after all, so let’s raise our voices, shall we?

Thanks so much for stopping by.  Happy reading, and happy summer!

Foodie Tuesday: It’s roasting in here!

Welcome to 2012, friends!  I have been woefully negligent of this blog as of late, and my only defense is that everything seems to accelerate mercilessly during the holiday season and I simply couldn’t keep up with everything.  It will surprise no one, however, that my enthusiasm for eating has flagged not at all, which brings me to the first Foodie Tuesday post of this new year: oven roasting and Diana Henry.

Last year I received a beautiful cookbook as a gift: Roast Figs, Sugar Snow by Diana Henry.  The book’s hearty wintertime recipes were interspersed with gorgeous photographs and vivid, in-praise-of-eating excerpts from authors like Laura Ingalls Wilder, Italo Calvino, Robert Frost, and Colette.  I read the book cover-to-cover and made the Swedish Thursday soup with split peas and ham, then set about learning more about Diana Henry, an Irish food writer and cook.

I found and ordered two more cookbooks by Henry, which immediately became indispensable resources in our Brooklyn kitchen.  I would go so far as to say that, if you were to have only one cookbook in your home, you’d do well to own either Plenty or Pure Simple Cooking.  Henry’s prose and recipes are practical, unassuming, and delicious.

She is a major advocate of oven-roasting, a nearly effortless way to serve a meal that is at once rib-sticking, homey, elegant, and sometimes even exotic (I am given, here, to a profusion of adjectives–forgive me!).  Oven-roasting is a very simple concept, but the resulting flavors are nuanced and eminently satisfying.

Nearly every recipe in Plenty and Pure Simple Cooking is appended with a variation or two, which means that an Italian-style roast chicken with rosemary and balsamic vinegar can easily become instead a Catalan roast chicken with pimenton, preserved lemon, and black olives.

As these winter days grow ever-colder (14° F today!? Sheesh.), the humble bounty of oven-roasted meats and vegetables warms both the home and the soul.  Happy cooking, happy eating, and Happy New Year!

 

 

Catalan-Style Baked Chicken – adapted from Diana Henry’s Pure Simple Cooking

Marinate 8 chicken thighs in 1/4 C olive oil, 1 Tbsp. pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika), 5 crushed garlic cloves, & the finely sliced flesh of 1/2 preserved lemon, plus 2 Tbsp. juice from the jar of lemons.

Put into a roasting pan with 2 lbs. unpeeled sweet potatoes, cut into big chunks, & 2 red onions, cut into wedges.  Season with salt & pepper.

Bake in a preheated 400°F oven for 45 minutes, until cooked through, adding a handful of pitted black olives & the shredded zest of the lemon 15 mins. before the end.  

Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley & mint or cilantro & serve.

I Get a Kick(Start) Out of You

As a kid, I loved going to the public library.  In fact, I first fell in love with New York City at the Wasilla Public Library, devouring books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and the All-of-a-Kind Family series.  The library was near my dad’s office, so I could ride with him to work, then walk to the library and spend my afternoon among the bookshelves.  Bliss!  There was just one problem: I had to cross the street at a four-way stop to get to the library.

The four-way stop was, to my 9-year-old self, a daunting intersection to navigate.  I found the traffic rules intimidating, and usually just stood nervously on the sidewalk until a kindly driver waved me across, at which point I ran for my life and exhaled with relief upon reaching the other side.

All these years later, I still love New York City and the public library.  I’m also happy to report that I no longer find four-way stops to be challenging.  The intersection of art and commerce, on the other hand, is riddled with complicated questions: how can I make a living as a musician?  How are the arts funded in the United States?  How can I support the arts?  How can I garner support for my own creative endeavors?

The answers to these questions have never been definitive, but KickStarter provides some interesting options.  KickStarter is an online platform that offers unique ways to both support and be supported by the creative community.  I’ve backed several projects on KickStarter, and I’m also smack dab in the middle of my own campaign as I prepare to make my debut solo album, The Great City.

What I like about KickStarter is that it’s a two-way street.  You make a pledge to someone’s project, and you get something in return.  The “something” that you get, as per KickStarter rules, has to be generated by the project you’re supporting.  In my case, people who pledge toward my album will receive signed advance copies of The Great City, copies of my Christmas CD (in time for the holidays, of course!), album art, liner note credits, and in-home concerts, among other rewards.

So today, on Cyber Monday, please consider joining my KickStarter campaign and becoming a part of my album.  When you visit my KickStarter page and make your pledge, you’ll be giving and receiving the gift of music; what better way to spread holiday cheer?  I’ll meet you there, on the corner of art and commerce.  Happy holidays!

Foodie Tuesday: Eating Words

These days, it seems like everyone is talking about gastronomy: food blogs (ahem) abound, and the food/cooking/restaurant memoir has become a genre unto itself. As someone who loves food and words in equal measure, I think it’s exciting that conversations–indeed, entire television networks–devoted to eating and cooking have secured a prominent place in our day-to-day lives.  There are, however, some oft-used food-related terms and phrases that have recently begun to annoy the hell out of me:

You eat with your eyes first!
I get it, I really do.  It’s nice to eat food that looks appetizing.  But we’ve all eaten enough out-of-season, vibrantly-red-yet-completely-devoid-of-flavor strawberries to know that appearances only go so far when it comes to food.  Granted, some food is beautiful as well as delicious.  For example, my dinner at the French Laundry lives in my memory as one of the extraordinary sensory experiences of my life, with each dish more artfully presented than the last.  When cooking at home or eating at a favorite local restaurant, though, I am far more concerned with the way my food smells and tastes than the way it looks.  At any rate, I don’t “eat with my eyes,” and I wish this phrase would just go away.

Lisa Lillien is not to be trusted; no one should be this happy about a table full of processed food.

Guilt-free/Sinful/Decadent/Indulgent/etc.
Calling certain foods “sinful,” “decadent,” or “naughty” is as offensive and idiotic as labeling über-processed pseudo-foods “guilt-free.”  I’m talking to you, Lisa Lillien.  Lillien, a.k.a. “Hungry Girl,” has amassed a huge following of people who evidently share her sadly misguided philosophy that food is either guilt-inducing (i.e. pleasurable) or guilt-free (i.e. synthetic and zero-calorie).

One real cupcake (made with flour, cocoa, eggs, and sugar) is undoubtedly better for your body than Lillien’s disgusting “guilt-free” cupcake “recipe,” which includes diet hot chocolate mix (yes, really), egg substitute, marshmallow creme, and Splenda.  Christ, no wonder she’s hungry!  Bottom line: with eating disorders and obesity-related illnesses reaching epidemic proportions in this country, it’s time we quit ascribing negative morality to the food we eat.

Referring to food (especially pork) as “sexy”
I love pork.  I really do.  I am unabashedly, unapologetically on the pig bandwagon.  It’s true, bacon does make (almost) everything better.  Pork belly, pork chops, baby back ribs, prosciutto…I crave and eat all these things with relative frequency.  But oh sweet merciful baby Jesus, quit calling pork “sexy.”  Please.  Alexander Skarsgard = sexy.  Christina Hendricks = sexy.  This little piggy on his way to my dinner plate?  Not so much.  Grab a thesaurus and find a new way to describe pork, please. To recap:

Alexander Skarsgard. Sexy.

Christina Hendricks. Sexy.

Porky Pig. Not sexy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another hot-button word for many food people is the term “foodie.”  As the author of a weekly “Foodie Tuesday” column, the word “foodie” doesn’t really bug me.  To be clear, though, I decided on “Foodie Tuesdays” because I liked the play on words; I wouldn’t necessarily use the term “foodie” to describe myself.  After all, many people like to cook, most people like to eat, and all of us have to eat, so why the cutesy moniker? In any case, “foodie” inspires in me neither love nor hate, but many folks seem to feel so strongly about the word that I felt I had to mention it in this post.

Then again, maybe the words we use to talk and write about food are not as important as the fact that so many people these days are enthusiastic about cooking, eating, and sharing food.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s a piece of “sinful” pork belly that is so “sexy” I have to “eat it with my eyes” before I eat it for real.  That’s just how we “foodies” roll.

Foodie Tuesday: Let them eat (wedding) cake

Okay, friends…super-short Foodie Tuesday post this week. I have my reasons:

1. I am boarding a plane tomorrow. Early. Said plane will wing its way to Sonoma, California, where I am getting married. I’ve been more than a little swamped with details, and while I have cooked some meals and watched some cooking shows, I’ve mostly been dotting i’s and crossing t’s in preparation for my wedding.

2. I am now officially contributing to a couple of food blogs. Remember a few weeks ago, when I wrote my inaugural Foodie Tuesday post on “Extra Virgin”? Well, I sent it to Gabriele, who in turn invited me to contribute to his blog, Under the Tuscan Gun. UTTG is a great resource for down-home Tuscan recipes, Italian food lore, and guest posts from a variety of authors. I’m honored to be a part of the Under the Tuscan Gun community. My author page is here, but I highly recommend looking around the whole site; you might wind up with a great dinner recipe for tonight!

And with that, Dear Reader, I bid you a fond “Peace out.” I’m goin’ back to Cali, yo. See you in a couple of weeks!

Wine country, here I come!