Visiting Niagara Falls Thursday, Jul 31 2008 

The third and final destination on our vacation last week was Niagara Falls. I’d never been there before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. We stayed on the Canadian side, which I highly recommend. PJ had gotten us a room with a view of the falls. Here’s what they looked like from our room:

They’re truly one of the most beautiful and impressive things I’ve ever seen. I was actually a little overwhelmed by them when we first got there. The weather was great–a little cloudy and a little bit of rain, but it was generally very pleasant.

I took a lot of pictures of the falls while we were there. I’ll post a few of them and offer my views on some of the activities we did while there after the break ….

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Stratford Shakespeare Festival Tuesday, Jul 29 2008 

For the second leg of our vacation last week, PJ and I visited the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario. Until recently we thought that we wouldn’t be able to go on our annual trip to New York in December and we didn’t want to pay an arm and a leg for airfare to England, so we thought a drive to Stratford (and then to the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake) would be a good alternative, which it was. (Right before leaving, we learned that we won’t be going to MLA this year, so we probably will be going to New York after all. Two theater trips in six months is great!)

We arrived in Stratford on Wednesday morning. We stayed at the Olde English Parlour Hotel, which is now the Parlour Historic Inn and Suites. It seems like a nice little hotel. Our room, or more precisely our suite, was really nice. We tend to travel as cheaply as possible, but this time we did a little better for ourselves — nothing outrageous, but better than the least expensive. Our suite had a living room with a couch, flat screen TV, and kitchenette. Then there was a separate bedroom, which also had a flat screen TV (I mention the televisions because, after spending three days in Pentwater without access to one, it felt great to be able to watch whatever was on.)

Our hotel was within walking distance of all of the three theaters we were going to as well as to the shops and restaurants in downtown Stratford. The downtown is really cute:

One of the first things we did on Thursday morning was find the Shakespearean Gardens, a beautiful garden along the Avon River that contains flowers and plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays.

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Visiting Pentwater, Michigan Monday, Jul 28 2008 

Last week, PJ and I took a week-long vacation that took us around the Great Lakes region generally and to three destinations specifically. Our first stop was Pentwater, Michigan, a quiet little resort town on Lake Michigan. Our friend James invited us to visit his family’s summer home again (we visited a few years ago). We had a great, relaxing start to our vacation in Pentwater and nearby Ludington.

This is downtown Pentwater. It’s mostly little gift shops and galleries, a few bars, and some restaurants. James’s house is just a few blocks from the downtown area. It’s a beautiful home and is included on the Pentwater Historical Society’s list of historic homes. Here’s the front of the house:

One of the house’s best features, especially for academic summer visitors, is the back patio, which is the perfect spot to sit out and read a good novel.

It’s also great for grilling, which “we” (meaning James) did the first night we were in town. James grilled some walleye, made black beans, and steamed some green beans. It turned out to be our best dinner while we were in Pentwater. Next time, we’ll definitely have to let him cook for us more!

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Mamma Mia! A Review Saturday, Jul 19 2008 

Yesterday, PJ and I saw Mamma Mia! starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Julie Walters, Christine Baranski, and Dominic Cooper. We were really looking forward to seeing it, since we love Streep and the trailer looks fun. We’ve never seen the stage musical, so we didn’t really know what to expect, however.

Streep plays Donna, who manages a crumbling hotel on a small Greek Island. Her daughter Sophie (Seyfried) is about to get married to Sky (Cooper), but Sophie would like to know who her father is before she marries. There are three possibilities, so she invites all three to the wedding on the (mistaken) belief that she will sense which one is her father as soon as she sees him. When they arrive and Sophie of course has no idea which one is it, mayhem ensues.

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Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: A Review Thursday, Jul 17 2008 

One of the blogs I read directed its readers’ attention to Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, which stars Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion. Here’s the trailer:

I love this Internet mini-series! Joss Whedon is, of course, the man behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly (which is one of the best sci-fi series ever), and Serenity. I loved the musical episode of Buffy. I even bought the soundtrack cd! Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog brings a similar aesthetic to the story of a geeky villain, played by Neil Patrick Harris, who has a crush on a woman at his laundromat, Penny, played by Felicia Day. Dr. Horrible’s nemesis, Captain Hammer, played by Nathan Fillion, however, comes between them when it appears that he’s saved Penny from being run over by a van. (more…)

Back Soon: A Review Wednesday, Jul 16 2008 

PJ and I recently watched Back Soon, a gay supernatural romance about two straight men who suddenly become attracted to one another. Here’s the trailer:

Windham Beacham plays Logan, a recently widowed man who hasn’t been able to put his life back together since his wife’s death in a drunk driving accident. In an effort to make a change, he puts their house up for sale. Matthew Montgomery plays Gil, who has been inexplicably drawn to Logan’s house for the better part of the past year; he makes an offer on the house as soon as the for sale sign goes up. As Logan moves out and Gil moves in, the two men become friends and increasingly drawn together. Eventually, the two otherwise straight men even sleep together. The rest of the movie explores the aftermath of this night together. Throughout the movie, the ghost/spirit of Logan’s dead wife also makes appearances, guiding the two men together.

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Cooking Spanish Shrimp and Potatoes Sunday, Jul 13 2008 

On Saturday, PJ noticed that we had a bottle of Spanish wine. He therefore suggested that I try making a Spanish dish or two for dinner. We looked through our various cookbooks and ultimately found two dishes that looked good. (Oddly, we never opened the bottle of wine, though!)

The first dish I found was for Spanish potatoes. I had recently mentioned that I hadn’t had potatoes in a while, which seemed a little strange since I love them so much. The recipe was pretty easy to make and turned out great. Here’s a pic of the finished product:

Spanish Potatoes

I’ll post the recipes and pics of the rest of the meal after the break.

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Grace Jones’s “Corporate Cannibal” Friday, Jul 11 2008 

Earlier this week, I was reading Towleroad.com and saw Grace Jones’s new video for “Corporate Cannibal,” the first single off her new album, which is due out later this year. Here’s the video:

I’ve written about my love for Grace Jones before. But to recap: I think she’s a brilliant performance artist who happens to use music as her primary medium. While her music is rarely appropriate for mainstream radio, it is nevertheless really good as music sometimes, but it’s always great performance art.

This new video is no exception. I like the electronica groove, and the visuals are really creative and interesting. I also think that the lyrics are more relevant than most songs currently on the radio. If this is any indication of where her album is going, I think it could be great. I’m really looking forward to hearing it. It could be brilliant or it could be a crazy disaster. Either way, it promises to be interesting.

(I could do without the growling at the end, though. That seems a little cheesy to me!)

Two Movies by Andrew Bujalski: Reviews Thursday, Jul 10 2008 

In our tour of mumblecore movies, PJ and I are now watching films by Andrew Bujalski, who was also one of the actors in Joe Swanberg’s Hannah Takes the Stairs. Bujalski’s first movie was Funny Ha Ha (2002); the second was Mutual Appreciation (2005). I really enjoyed both films.

Here’s the trailer for Funny Ha Ha:

Funny Ha Ha stars Kate Dollenmayer as Marnie, a recent college graduate who hasn’t quite made the transition from undergraduate to post-undergraduate yet. She’s in love with an unattainable guy, Alex, played by Christian Rudder. Her friends, Rachel and Dave, played by Jennifer L. Schaper and Myles Paige, try to offer her advice (and some perhaps very unproductive distraction), but there’s only so much they can do. Bujalski plays Mitchell, a guy Marnie meets at one of her temp jobs. Mitchell has a crush on Marnie and even tries to get her to like him, but for Marnie he’s definitely no Alex.

Marnie

Marnie (Kate Dollenmayer)

Like other movies in this genre, however, the plot, such as is it, is mostly beside the point. Instead, the movie is really about dialog and character. Maybe it’s actually more accurate to say that it’s really just about character — the dialog and everything that happens is really in service of introducing us to these characters.

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My First Curry Thursday, Jul 3 2008 

Tonight I made my first curry dish. PJ had been looking through one of our cookbooks and, since it was my turn to cook but didn’t have any idea what I wanted to make, he suggested I try one of the potato curry dishes.

One requisite I have for cookbooks is that there has to be pictures of the food — I usually need an idea of what I’m aiming for before I can decide to make something. So, I started flipping through the curry section and found a picture of a potato and cauliflower curry that looked good.

It turned out really well. Here’s a picture of what it looked like when I was finished (I know I need to work on my plating — watching Top Chef makes me ashamed of how badly organized my plate is!). Just click on the picture for a larger version.

Potato and Cauliflower Curry

Potato and Cauliflower Curry

The potatoes took a little longer to cook than the recipe had claimed, but mostly it went off without a hitch. In fact, it was much more delicious than I thought it would be as I cooked! It was also really spicy. The recipe listed one or two green chilies as an option, so I decided to use one. I figured that would be “medium” spicy, which is how PJ and I each order our Indian food at restaurants.

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