Friday, October 30, 2015

Weeknight Date Night: Buena Vista Social Club

I think I saw it on Facebook; a sponsored post by a performing arts center out in the western part of the state advertising a night with the Buena Vista Social Club, a group of performers representing the "Golden Age" of Cuban music, from the 1930s to the 1950s. It was during this era where music like Afro-Cuban jazz, rumba and son, as well as the mambo, the cha cha cha, and the pachanga were born. 

As someone who enjoys Latin music, this seemed like a great event to enjoy with my favorite Señor. 

Named after the iconic Cuban members' club, these fraternal clubs were the backbone of Cuban social and ethnic hierarchy. There were clubs for doctors and engineers. There were clubs for cigar wrappers. At clubs for baseball players, they might play cards or sports. Musicians had the Buena Vista Social Club, like the music unions here in the Unites States. 

After the Cuban Revolution in 1959, many of these clubs were closed by the newly elected, devout Christian president, who soon resigned after his own disputes with Fidel Castro.  In his short lived presidency, he closed many places that were suggestive of, what he thought, was Havana's hedonistic lifestyle, where people might go to gamble or even dance, including the Buena Vista Social Club, where musicians gathered and threw parties. 

In an attempt to build a "classless and colorblind society," cultural expression was squashed. Cultural and social centers, where any cultural differences may have been apparent, were abolished, including clubs like the Buena Vista. Traditional Cuban music thrived, but only what was politically acceptable.

In the 1990s, fifty years after the club closed, American guitarist Ry Cooder and Cuban musician Juan de Marcos González, collaborated on a 1997 Grammy-winning recording, and later, a 1999 film about the sprit behind the Havana club. The surprise success of both the recording and the film outside of Havana, and Cuba's emerging tourist industry, renewed interest in Cuban music, and Latin American music worldwide. 

Several surviving members of the original crew tour under the hybrid collective umbrella of the Buena Vista Social Club, forming the thirteen member band, Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club

It was one of the best shows we have ever seen.

The energy, talent and experience of the musicians and vocalists, paired with the energy of the crowd in the venue, were staggering. They brought the house to their feet all evening, especially when the icons, like 85 year old, Omara Portuondo, came to the stage to sing a number of classic songs, and later, dance a salsa with her husband, one of the other musicians on stage, or when the Cuban Johnny Cash, Eliades Ochoa, was featured on particular pieces.

When they wrapped up for the evening, the crowd was not ready to say goodbye. 

"Otra!" they shouted, and Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club returned for a lively encore. 

The Señor and I agreed that we were blessed to see this iconic collaboration on their Adiós tour, especially after finding out that their only U.S. tour dates were in Boston and New York before heading overseas,  It was a lovely evening, indeed. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Decluttering Your Soul

There comes a point in many people's lives when we yearn for quiet space, free from the responsibilities or schedules of everyday life. 

As I mentioned in this post about decluttering, I said that sometimes it feels like we're drowning in stuff. 

But it's not just amassed physical stuff that clutters our lives. It can feel like we're drowning in creative ideas or in the chaos of our over-scheduled lives. 

It can feel like we are drowning in unmet expectations or in disappointments in ourselves or others. 

Sometimes, it feels like we are drowning in the frenzy of a plugged in life. 

Our souls may feel the twitch of our anxious or frenetic life, and it becomes easier to feel overwhelmed. 

Some of us ignore the need to slow down, but at what cost? 

If you're feeling like your soul is filled with clutter, here are three ideas for cleaning out what weighs you down.

1. Sit in silence and focus on your breath. Slow down your breathing. Go to your happy place. Breathe in peace. Take it in and let it wrap you in calm. Fidgety? Hold an empty mug or bowl. Sit for as long as it is comfortable. 

2. Go for a walk. Don't use your headphones. Look around. Take in the sights, smells, and sounds around you. Allow creative solutions to whisper in your ear. 

3. Bake bread or make soup on the stove. Chop your veggies by hand. Savor the time you need to let the bread dough rise. There is a reason those at home days feel so good. These "chores" give us permission to have a pajama day and check out for a while, allowing us time to recharge. You can give yourself this time. 

Self care is not a luxury. It is not something we earn or deserve in the way we deserve treats. Self care is as integral to wellness. In the same way we notice when other needs are not met, we feel the effects of an overwhelmed soul. 

How do you declutter your mind and soul? Share your slow down practices in the comments and inspire us all. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pandora Love: My 5 Favorite Channels

I am big fan of Pandora. It's what I listen to when I'm blogging, catching up on magazines, or cooking. Sometimes, we listen to it in the car (Thank you, Sprint, for unlimited data!) and we stream it when we're simply sharing space at home. 

I have a dozen channels, more or less, that I listen to fairly regularly, but I have my favorites. 

Here are some of the channels that make up the soundtrack at our house. 

Winter's coming...I couldn't help myself. 

1. Jason Mraz
I love the acoustic sounds of Jason Mraz. His feel good, romantic tunes, like on my favorite YES cd, are laid back and folksy. People who like Jack Johnson or Ed Sheeran will love this channel. 

2. Spanish Guitar
From classical guitar to Rodrigo y Gabriela, this toe-tapping channel will have you yearning for a ticket to Spain before your first track has finished. 

3. Edith Piaf
When I'm missing Paris, I listen to Edith Piaf. With French language classics sung by Piaf and classic crooners like Charles Aznavour, you will get your fill of French inspired accordion loveliness, plus an occasional bossa nova or samba for good measure. 

4. Jimmy Buffett
My Parrothead roots run deep, and when I'm reminiscing about my time living in South Florida and my time exploring the Florida Keys, I queue up all things Buffett. I'm back on island time faster than you savor a shot of tequila. Fins up!

5. Chris Botti
There is something about a trumpet that is intensely romantic. I have seen Chris Botti live and he does not disappoint. This channel features Botti classics, peppered with the great Winton Marsalis and Miles Davis. Perfect for a weekend afternoon on the couch with a book and a blanket. 

So those are my go-to Pandora channels. Who are you listening to these days? What is your happy music?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

From Kelly's Kitchen: An Easy Weeknight Dinner: Apricot Glazed Pork Tenderloin

For some, an oven roast is a nostalgic comfort food, and in the fall. the time is right for all things roasted. 

One of our favorite oven roasts is a pork tenderloin. It's perfect for a Sunday supper or even a busy weeknight dinner. 

Here's what I do.

Weeknight Apricot Glazed Pork Tenderloin
1 or 2 pork tenderloins (fresh, not marinated)
Apricot preserves, all-fruit, if possible. 
Fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil 

  • Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Salt and pepper the pork on all sides to taste. 
  • In an oiled skillet on medium high to high heat, sear the tenderloin on all sides. 
  • In the microwave, heat 1/2-3/4 of a cup of apricot preserves with 1-2 tablespoons of butter and fresh thyme that you have removed from 2 or 3 stems. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. You're really only trying to cook down the preserves to more of a glaze. 
  • Once the pork is seared, but not cooked, place it in an oven safe dish. 
  • Spoon the apricot thyme mixture onto the pork and bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes, depending on the girth of the pork. You may spoon the glaze from the dish over the pork about halfway through cooking. 
  • It is done when your meat thermometer reaches 140-145 degrees, about 20 minutes in total. Let it rest about 10 minutes. 
That night, we served ours with roasted veggies

This is one of our go-to fall favorites. It's quick, it's easy, and it's delicious. What are your favorite go-to dinners?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Nashville Sweets: Goo Goo Clusters

When I was in Nashville this summer, I remember seeing a certain candy in all of the local shops. What was a Goo Goo Cluster, I wondered?

When I found out it was made right in the area of Nashville where we were staying, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out and sample the tasty treats. 

The Goo Goo Cluster is promoted as the nation's first combination candy. 

According to the people at Goo Goo, before 1912, candy was manufactured in bars only, consisting of one element, like chocolate. This concoction, the brain child of Howell Campbell, Sr. and Porter Moore, is made of caramel, nougat, and peanuts, and then draped in chocolate. In 1912, this combination did not fit the mold, literally. 

The Goo Goo timeline in its Nashville flagship.

Because of their unique shape, Goo Goo Clusters used to be hand wrapped in tinfoil by the candy ladies. 
Just because...

Today, automation allows for 20,000 wrapped clusters ever hour. Sorry, Lucy!

As for the name, it took some time. It is said that Mr. Campbell, was chatting with fellow streetcar passengers on his way to work one day and mentioned that his son's first words were "Goo goo." A teacher, also riding on the streetcar told Campbell that Goo Goo should be the name of his new candy, because it was so good, people would ask for it from birth. 

And so began the Goo Goo Cluster.

At the Nashville store, you can buy variations on the original Goo Goo Cluster, featuring unique small-batch combinations, or you can purchase boxes to take home with you, as well as nostalgic Goo Goo merchandise. The boxes come in the original combination, the Supreme, with pecans instead of peanuts, and with peanut butter, instead of nougat. I brought home the variety pack with all three. They're all fabulous. 

The Goo Goo store is located at 116 3rd Avenue, South in Nashville. Their telephone number is 615-490-6685. 

And if you're not in the Nashville area, you can order the sweet treats and merchandise online

The Goo Goo Cluster was a tasty surprise during my trip to Nashville. What is your favorite uniquely local treat you have tried while away for business or holiday? 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Weekending with My Girl

This weekend, I was blessed to see my niece who was here on a weekend visit from Florida. 
What a joy! I could not love her more. 

Photo booth fun

On Sunday, the señor and I ventured out for a coffee and walk around a cute downtown in the Monadnock area of New Hampshire. While it did not have the maracons I found at the French bakery in Portsmouth last weekend... did have a fabulous mocha. 

Weekends spent with those you love always pass too quickly, but Mondays provide the perfect incentive to plan a visit south to see my girl, and a weekend away with the señor just because.   

How was your weekend? 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls Massachusetts: A New England Gem

Located in the small, quiet western Massachusetts town of Shelburne Falls, the Bridge of Flowers is the place for a lovely stroll on a weekend afternoon. 

Bought in 1908 and once used as a way to transport freight and people to the nearby mills, the former trolley bridge, which crosses the Deerfield River, sat in decay after the automobile boom provided transport that exceeded the small railway company's capacity to compete. 

In 1929, the bridge was covered with weeds, but could not be demolished because it contained an important water main, so it was rescued and transformed into a garden by the town's Women's Club. And thus began The Bridge of Flowers. 

There is much to see along the arched footbridge. 

The flowers are identified and provide wonderful inspiration for at home landscapes. 

If you stroll the downtown, you will learn that the film, Labor Day, was filmed here. 

As well as The Judge

On the afternoon we were there, we stopped in for a coffee at Mocha Maya's, a coffee shop, pub, and live music venue. 

And peeked at the glacial potholes of the Deerfield River. 

Shelburne Falls and the Bridge of Flowers provided a perfect place to explore on a Sunday afternoon. If you are ever in the area, consider this downtown stroll. The Bridge is open from April to October. 

Monday, October 12, 2015


It seems that lately our weekends have passed and we are left wondering what we did. Occasionally, we have quiet weekends at home, but with my husband teaching on Saturdays and me catching up with classes laden with busy work and monthly live sessions, it seems like there is little time for play. 

This weekend, however, being a long weekend, it seems like we did sneak in a bit of time for ourselves. 

My brother and his girlfriend flew in for the long weekend. It was nice to catch up. We don't get to see each other that often, since he lives in Florida, so this was a treat. 

This weekend was also my niece's first Homecoming. She and her friends clean up well. 

I also explored my new cookbook, Against All Grain, and tried out a couple of recipes, like this bread. It was a pleasant surprise. And it's fabulous toasted. 

These chocolate chip cookies, also from the cookbook, were fabulous!

So, so good!

The rest of the weekend was spent enjoying fall. The colors have not yet "popped" here in my corner of the state, but the yellows and greens were lovely, nonetheless. 

Pumpkins, cider, and gourds. Oh my!

Lastly, I love John Oliver. Often, in my opinion, he is right on point, and so funny. I was mentioning to my husband this weekend that I wondered how Columbus Day is still even a thing, forgetting that John Oliver did his own take on this day last year. My husband said that in South America, it is celebrated as something like a Discovery Day. 

Ok...fine...discovering a continent while you're convinced that the world is flat...fine. 

But Columbus Day? How is this even a thing? ~Courtesy of John Oliver. 

Hope you had a great weekend. What did you do?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Take One: My First Attempt at Paleo Pumpkin Walnut Pancakes

I love pumpkin, and I love pancakes. Pumpkin pancakes on a chilly weekend morning sounded like a lovely idea. 

Because of what's best for my body and no other reason, I am trying to eat less grains. As a result, I have been experimenting with different ingredients and how I can make some of my favorite things, minus the grains. 

This paleo pumpkin pancake recipe came about as a result. 

The final cooked texture of the pancake is dense; but perhaps this is due more to my impatience and sizing of the pancakes than the recipe itself, which generated from a survey of various paleo pancake recipes. 

This particular recipe makes 10-12 pancakes. 

Paleo Pumpkin Walnut* Pancakes

4 large eggs, beaten
1 can of pumpkin 
2 tablespoons raw honey
1.5 cups of almond meal/flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice
1/3-1/2 cups walnuts, chopped (optional)

Coconut oil for greasing your skillet

Mix the wet ingredients. Add to the dry ingredients.

Grease your skillet with coconut oil.
Add a dollop of batter
Cook over medium low heat. This is where I became impatient. They will flip easier if you're patient and wait until they solidify a bit more. 

I ate my pancakes drizzled with real maple syrup, and they were delicious! My husband liked the flavor, but he agreed that they were dense. Better for keeping us full, I said. 

I will be making these again. If you make them, please let me know what you think.