"Any arbitrary turn along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different." ~ Frances Mayes

After losing 112 pounds in almost a year and a half, I have come to realize how very much I was missing. I may be Late to the Party, but I am doing my best to catch up in my own unique way!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Two Followers Short of 7/10ths of the Way to CHOCOLATE

Slowly but surely my Follower number is creeping upwards.  TWO MORE and  I am 3/5ths 7/10ths of the way to 50 Followers!  35 and counting! Just reminding everyone that when I get to that goal, there will be chocolate coming some lucky gal's way!  Please, please, keep spreading the word!  Thanks to all of you who read these wondering (and wandering) thoughts of mine and who encourage me.  It means the world to me!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Confession Friday - The Better Voice

Confession Friday!  Didn't I just confess?  Well, I'm back at it again....

"Music takes us out of the actual and whispers to us dim secrets that startle our wonder as to who we are and for what, whence, and whereto." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I cannot live without music, plain and simple.  On any given day, I like any given genre of music:  classical, easy listening, pop rock, bluegrass, Celtic, New Age, alternative, country, gospel, Christian, jazz, even sometimes the blues.  You name it, I like it.  I would be hard pressed to name a favorite style of music.  It speaks to my soul.  Calms my nerves, makes me rock out, dance, sing.  I have favorite songs, for sure.  There are too many to count and name.  But if I had to name just one to top the list it would be......

Puccini's Nessun Dorma from his opera Turandot.  I never, ever tire of hearing it. (This, however, is NOT my confession).  Oohh, great, you say, opera....boring. Bear with me here.  As in any opera, the listening is enhanced when one knows of what these voices are singing.  So here's the skinny on Nessun Dorma.  It is the final aria from the final act of the opera and is sung by the character Calif, il principe ignoto, which is translated into "the unknown prince."  No one knows his name. He has fallen in love with the lovely Princess Turandot, but she is a cold fish.  In our society we would call her the "B" word.  Calif wants to marry her but whomever marries her must first answer three riddles.  If he cannot, he is beheaded!  But much to the chagrin of  Turandot, Calif is successful.  She doesn't want to marry Calif, and he gives her an out.  If she can guess his name by the morning, she can kill him.  If not, then she must marry him.  She agrees. Ah, the game is on!   Not to be outwitted, the evil, twisted princess decrees that her subjects must find out his name before night's end or they ALL will be killed.  As night has fallen, Calif can hear her heralds throughout her kingdom issuing her proclamations and he begins his aria echoing their cries.  "Nessun dorma, Nessun dorma" - "None shall sleep, none shall sleep."  As his aria continues, he knows no one will know or guess his name.  A chorus of women, Turandot's subjects, are heard lamenting that they will die because no one knows this stranger's name.  Calif, however, is rejoicing that in the end he will win.  After all, she can't possibly kill all her subjects......  He sings:

Nobody shall sleep!...
Nobody shall sleep!
Even you, o Princess,
in your cold room,
watch the stars,
that tremble with love and with hope.
But my secret is hidden within me,
my name no one shall know...
On your mouth I will tell it when the light shines.
And my kiss will dissolve the silence that makes you mine!...
(No one will know his name and we must, alas, die.)
Vanish, o night!
Set, stars! Set, stars!
At dawn, I will win! I will win! I will win!

Ok, so I have told the story and given you the translation.  Big deal, you say.  I know, it doesn't sound so great put on paper,  I give you that.  But watch this and tell me just how great this is!

Ahhh....Pavarotti. Luciano Pavarotti. King of the High C's.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Pavarotti and his impact on modern opera, let me share just a bit about him.

He was born in Modena, Italy in 1935.  His father had a wonderful voice but declined to pursue a musical career mostly because of stage fright.  Luciano liked to listen to his fathers records of Caruso and Mario Lanza, as well as other Italian tenors, which influenced him greatly.  He was an athletic young boy and liked soccer.  He wanted to be a professional goal keeper. He decided that his choices after his academic schooling was finished were to either pursue professional soccer or teach.  And teach, he did, for two years in an elementary school.  It wasn't until the age of 19 that he began to study music seriously.  And discovered, I might add, that he had perfect pitch.  His teacher,  a well respected voice instructor, recognized his talent and taught him free of charge.  Pavarotti continued to teach part time and sell insurance to support himself during the seven years of study.  During that time, he had few concerts, mostly in small Italian towns and with no pay.  He developed a nodule on his vocal chords, gave a "disastrous" concert because of it, and decided singing wasn't for him.  In other words, Luciano Pavarotti QUIT!

 "The better voice does not make a better singer." ~ Luciano Pavarotti

But life has a funny way of working out.  Pavarotti said later that when he stopped singing for that period of time, it was like a weight had been lifted from him.  The nodule miraculously healed and disappeared entirely.  "Everything I had learned came together with my natural voice to make the sound I had been struggling so hard to achieve."  Sometimes, I guess, we just try too hard and instead of pursuing, we should let the dream come to us.  At least that's what happened in Luciano's case.

He joined small regional Italian opera houses and had moderate success.  After touring in Europe and Australia, his American debut came at the Miami Opera House in February, 1965.  A tenor that was scheduled to perform that night became very sick and there was no understudy.  Joan Sutherland, the famous opera singer whom Pavarotti had toured with in Europe, made the suggestion that he fill in.  He didn't stay in America, however, and continued to tour all over the world.

And then his big break came.  It was February 17th, 1972.  New York Metropolitan Opera. He drove the audience mad with nine -  count them - nine high C's.  Impossible.  And as a result he received seventeen, yes, count them, seventeen curtain calls - a record that stands today.  He earned the title King of the High C's in Europe, but he proved it that night at the Met.

"When people hear good music, it makes them homesick for something they never had and never will have."~ Edgar Watson Howe

Pavarotti was often criticized for taking opera to the masses.  But take it to the masses he did and they loved him.  He was the first and only opera singer to appear on Saturday Night Life.  He put on concerts with pop artists to raise money for his charities, including the Red Cross.  In 1994 he appeared with Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo in concert for PBS, The Three Tenors.  I so vividly remember watching, mesmerized.  There was no question that night who was the Master, the greatest of the three, and to Carreras' and Domingo's credit, they let him shine, let him win the battle of the great voices, so to speak.  It was evident to all who was King.  And here's the thing - in the first video I shared with you of Pavarotti singing, it is 1980.  He is probably at his prime.  It is effortless.  He makes it look easy.  It is beautiful and flawless.  Now, indulge me and watch this performance from The Three Tenors:

It is now 1994.  He is no longer young; nor middle aged for that matter.  He is past his prime.  It does not come as easy as it once did.  He knows this by rote, he has sung it so many times.  Oh, but there is so much more here now that was missing from the first -  a richness, a mature fullness, an understanding that opera is emotion, a tidal wave of feelings, a conveyance that he has pulled out all the stops for this performance.   In the first video, he sings effortlessly.  But now, he sings to leave a memory in the audiences' minds. Now he sings with his heart.  He sings with the pure joy of his gift.  He opens his mouth and makes you cry.

And that is my confession:  I loved him -  loved to hear him sing, loved to hear him talk, loved to watch him command a stage. I thought him exceedingly handsome. He is the main reason I like opera.  He was the Maestro, the Master.  Luciano Pavarotti,  King of the High C's, died in September of 2007. There will never be another.

"Above all, I am an opera singer.  This is how people will remember me."  ~ Luciano Pavarotti

Friday, February 18, 2011

Confession Friday - As if one chocolate confession weren't enough

Finally... the chance to write!  I have to accept that it's THAT time of year and my time is not always my own, but this too shall pass come mid to late April.  There will be ample time then to write on a more regular basis.  In the meantime, I will blog when I can and confess what I will, albeit on a not-quite-so-regular schedule.  On to the confession for this week....

Spring seems to be on everyone's mind this week as the temperatures here in the South and the rest of the nation moderated somewhat the past few days.  The weather outlook for this weekend here in Atlanta looks terrific. I am sure there are cold days ahead, but for now I can't help but feel the worst of winter is over.  Now that I have said it, I have just jinxed us all and a huge blizzard will descend upon us at the end of February, beginning of March. Still, we all know that it is just a matter of a few weeks and Spring will be here before we know it.   And that gets me to thinking about Lent and Easter.

Let's face it, Easter is a nice holiday, but quieter and more low-key, given what it represents.  For the Christian, it is a more solemn occasion and can't be compared to the frivolity of Christmas.  There are no Easter parties, no days of countless social gatherings, gift buying, baking, and exhaustion.  Families will gather to have a Easter Sunday dinner, egg hunts for the kids, and the little ones will be excited to see what the Big Bunny will leave in their baskets.  There are little toys, jelly beans, candy eggs, but most prevalent are the Easter chocolates.  And that is where my confession comes in on this subject.

When I was a child, the Easter Bunny never left the traditional chocolate bunny in my or my siblings' baskets.  Granted, we got some candy and usually a book or something of that nature, but never, never a chocolate bunny.  And as you all know from one of my recent confessions, I have been a chocolate addict from the time I could chew food.  So you can imagine my distress each Easter Sunday to anticipate a big chocolate rabbit or egg in the my basket, only to be disappointed once again.  This was entirely fueled and complicated by the fact that my cousins would arrive at my grandparents' home for Easter dinner, Easter baskets in tow, complete with a gi-normous chocolate rabbit. Can you say jealous?  Green, pea green with envy.  When I became a parent, I made sure that the Easter Bunny brought chocolate, lots and lots of chocolate to put in my girls' baskets. Eggs, bunnies, hens...the usual.

I confess.....I am fascinated by the forms that Easter chocolates come in. Over the years I have become increasingly aware that a strange trend has developed in these Easter candy offerings.   I'm not just talking bunnies and eggs here. Some people have decided that it would be really cool if these Easter treats took on a more religious, if not, shall we say...holy aspect.  If I tried to describe it, words just wouldn't do it justice, so let me share some pictures I found:
Nothing like eating The Good Book.
The Praying Hands.... I pray your children don't get this.

Christ's Hands.....lick 'em or bite them?

For those that need a little crunch when they eat Christ's Praying Hands.

For the Protestants' Easter Baskets.  A Chocolate Cross.  Lovely.

Calvary re-enacted in chocolate and Easter grass.

Let's not forget our Catholic friends.

For the REALLY devote Catholic.

The wine and the wafer in chocolate....now that's my kind of Communion!
I don't quite think this is what they had in mind for the Body and Blood of Christ, or is it just me?

Don't know about you, but I would have a problem eating this......just saying......

 I know every child would just love to find Jesus peeking out of his or her Easter basket.  My question is this - head or finger first?
  And finally, for the chocolate do-it-yourself-er:

 Nothing says Easter joy like a chocolate and pretzel Crown of Thorns.

It all just seems so.....so....wrong......

Please, please, do me a favor....stick to the Easter bunnies, eggs, chicks.....you know, NORMAL Easter sweets.  And please, dear God, forgive me for I know what I do and I confessed anyway.

P.S.  The chocolate giveaway is still on....I'm halfway to 50 followers.  Once I reach that goal, the chocolate will be going to a lucky follower!  Help me spread the word.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February Word of the Month

Oh, my gosh, am I behind!  We are a week plus a day into the month of February and I have not announced this month's word!  I offer as an excuse the legislative session here at the Capitol which becomes all-consuming, all-life encompassing, taxing and draining to both body and brain.  Suffice it to say that I am running behind schedule.

We have come to the doldrums of winter.  The frivolity of the Christmas holidays are a distant memory and most New Year's resolutions have been broken, forgotten, or at best, compromised.  Unless we are fortunate to live in a more temperate climate, the middle of February finds us weary of cold and ice and snow, of rain and wind, gloomy days and long frozen nights.  The Super Bowl hype is over and the Ground Hog has either seen his shadow or not.  Either way, Punxsutawney Phil, or General Lee for us in the South, has retired back to his reclusive hole for another year. It is still a long time until Easter or the Equinox, which ever comes first this year, and the heralding of Spring.  Here at the Capitol, Session seems to stretch out forever and we count down the forty legislative days S-L-O-W-L-Y.  April seems an awful long time away.  Nature is asleep, marking time before the great thaw and the gradual awakening that accompanies it.

Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own. ~ Erica Jong

 All in all, I can honestly say that this time of year has its own benefits.  There isn't too much to think about except work and what the weatherman is predicting for the upcoming two or three days to come.  It is too cold, too dreary, too dark to do much more than go home at the end of the work day, eat supper, engage in mindless television or quiet reading, and go to bed for a few hours of desperately needed rest before going through it all over again the next day.  One day looks like the one before and the one before that, similar to the storyline of the movie Groundhog Day, a personal fave, I have to say.  Yes, it can be boring, but for all its downfalls, the routine of this time of year is a rhythm that doesn't require much thought other than going through the rote motions. And in that simplicity, there is a comfort, a cadence of life, if you will.  That, my friends, is the February Word of the Month - CADENCE.

My formula for living is quite simple. I get up in the morning and I go to bed at night. In between, I occupy myself as best I can.
-- Cary Grant

The cadence of Winter is understated.  This season can be a respite for our bodies, as well as our souls. We should take Nature's example and hibernate, if not literally, then figuratively. We need, actually crave, at times a slower life and this is the time to heed that call.  Fall into the rhythm of your life, embrace the cadence.  The trick is to not fight it, accept that it is perfectly all right to slow down.  Give yourself permission to start a jigsaw puzzle and take weeks to finish it.  Pick up a book that you have long wanted to read but couldn't find time to devote during the three busier seasons.

Take a Sunday afternoon nap by the fire or sleep late on Saturday under the electric blanket.  Whatever duties call will be there when you awake.

Renew an old friendship. Write a letter rather than a quick email. Plan a Saturday night supper of filling stew, fresh bread, warm brownies.  Learn to knit, start an artistic journal or - here's an idea - a blog!

A hot, soaking bath with candles aglow is the perfect "me" time.  This may take some thought and a constant reminder to ourselves to accept our attempt to find a less hectic rhythm and a concentrated effort to ratchet it down a notch or two.

In conforming to Winter's slower cadence, you can actually create new experiences or enjoy pleasures you have reluctantly put aside.  Listen to your inner cadence of the heart and soul and not the cadence we think we must march to all year.  Why rush to the cadence of a marathon race when the sway of a slow waltz is more satisfying?

"All nature works, and then rests; works and rests.  I caught its rhythm and worked and rested with it.  When I felt that inertia stealing over me, I rested; and while resting, my power recuperated - the tide rose in me." ~ Elizabeth Towne, 1904

 If you have found a slower cadence in the past few weeks, please share with me and my readers what you have done to make that change.  I would love to hear from you!  Oh, and don't forget the 50 followers chocolate giveaway!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tea Cups and Swaps

Is there anything more cheerful and comforting than a good cup of hot tea?  Of course there is!  A beautiful teacup to drink it from!
 I am a participant in a teacup swap through Faith, Hope and Cherry Tea and my partner is La, or Lori, from A Musing Potpourri. Both of their blogs are wonderfully delightful and I love visiting them to see what they are up to, what their thoughts are on any given day.  They are inspirational and fun!
Coming home at the end of a stressful day at work to find a big box waiting for me was just the pick-me-up I needed on Wednesday!  Inside I found the prettiest teacup and other things.  Here, just take a look!
The teacup is a pattern called Blue Danube and I love the weight of it!  I have always loved the blue and white of English china and I once had a little teapot set that belonged to my grandmother, but alas, has long ago been lost....long, sad story.  So now I have the wonderful reminder of that teapot.  The gift box is a wonderful blue with black and white flowers and couldn't have been a better compliment to the teacup.  Also,  as you can see, there was a tiny spoon perfect for that "spot o' tea" and a handy teabag holder once it comes out of the hot water.  Decaf English breakfast tea is fantastic since I can't have the caffeine. There was a lovely card from La that was the perfect match to it all.  And, to top it all off, a Buckeye peanut butter candy, since La is from Ohio, and a little package of Walker's Shortbread cookies - a personal fave, I might add!  I have to admit....the cookies and the buckeye were consumed within hours of opening the box, thus the torn and opened packages in the picture!  Well worth the Weight Watchers points!

So, thank you, La, for the beautiful cup and all the accompanying items!  I will cherish my new cup, but most of all, a new friend!  I only hope you enjoy yours as much as I have mine!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Touched a Nerve

Just a short little note today to say that of all the posts I have done, the last two...the one on redbirds and the one on chocolate....have received the most comments yet here and on Facebook.  I have even had some readers stop by my office to say how concerned they were over the possible demise of chocolate in 2014!  I must have really scared those chocoholics out there!  And yes, it was for real, not a joke, although I admit that it is sometimes hard to tell with me.

So here's the deal....I am desperate for followers. OFFICIAL followers -  Not just the ones that read my blog through the connection on Facebook, but the ones that click on the right side under the heading of, what else - FOLLOWERS, and join the ones that have already braved the stigma of admitting reading Late to the Party.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I appreciate and adore each and every one of you that read Late to the Party!  And I love the comments, whether here or on the FB link, but I am trying to build a much bigger base of those who admit to reading the craziness I churn out every week.

With that in mind, in the spirit of giving AND in the form of an outright selfish bribe, I am having a giveaway.  When I reach 50 followers here at Late to the Party I will draw a name from the "official" followers list.  And since the chocolate post seemed to have touched a nerve, it will be for a bag of Ghirardelli chocolates, specifically the Pumpkin Spice Caramel Squares.  These were only offered for sale this past October or November through New Year's.  It helps to have a husband who works for Ghirardelli so we have our own private stash that I am willing to share.

  So wake the kids and call the neighbors and spread the news! 

Here's how to enter:
1) Just become an "official" follower and leave me a comment saying so.  If you are already follower, you can join in by doing the same.
2) Leave a comment on any of my posts and earn another chance - Follow the prompts for comments under the specific post or tell me if and why you liked it.
3) Share this on your blog and come back and leave another comment!
Make sure you leave your contact information (email or blog addy) so I can contact the winner!

And the official count begins!  Good luck!