Monday, October 31, 2016

Washington International Horse Show

Each fall, I walk past the Verizon Center and see F Street blocked off with horse stables, and then I remember that the Washington International Horse Show is in town! I would always forget and never bought tickets, but this year I remembered! I figured since my friends and I weren't going to the International Gold Cup this fall, we could do this instead. What's not to love about horses?

GIF found here.
This horse show is a lot of fun! I got GREAT seats (fourth row!) for just $22 each, so it's an inexpensive way to spend a fun evening. Of course I've never grown out of my pony phase, so I loved just watching the horses. I don't know why horses are such a girl thing, but the majority of the audience was made of up young girls who already ride. Because of the young audience, there were a lot of silly bits to the show, like contests for which group (stable? farm?) designed the best poster, which group brought the most people and had the most team spirit, etc. I didn't care about that part; I just wanted to see the horses and ponies!

Here are some videos I found online. I'm not sure if they're exactly from the evening when I went, but you get the idea:

One of the reasons I bought tickets for this particular day was because I knew there would be Shetland pony races. How cute is that?! (I apologize for the buzzing noise in the background of the video below.)

There was an adult's competition at the end, and the riders were all dressed up for Halloween (some even decorated their horses!). While this all sounds really fun, the winner received $30,000, so that's a pretty serious prize! Here are some pics of the costumes:

A clown. A little creepy with all of this scary clown stuff happening recently...
This guy was actually on the Olympic team! Hence his jacket.
The Queen of Hearts. And her horse was the White Rabbet, with ears, glasses, and a fluffy bunny tail!
USA Pride
I loved the skeleton form painted on this horse!
The rider is Ash, and the horse is Pikachu.
Bond. James Bond.
Dr. Seuss' Thing 1 and Thing 2!
I had a really fun time at this horse show, and I highly recommend it. The only thing that would have made the night better would have been if we were allowed to pet the horses!

Although, I was not quite inspired enough to do this:

girl weird jump random horse
GIF found here.
Okay, that's enough GIFs for one post...

Bentzen Ball Comedy Show

Image found here.
A few months ago I bought tickets to this comedy show. I had seen both Bridget Everett and Michael Ian Black perform before, and I remembered that they were pretty funny. But the evening was crazier than I expected.
This was the stage greeting us before the show even began: a naked man and two creepy dolls. Not a good sign.
Bridget Everett Pound It
Image found here.
The opening act called Mother Knuckle was HORRIBLE. I don't know where Brightest Young Things (the host of the Bentzen Ball) found these guys, but I hope they didn't pay them a dime. The piece was so stupid and not funny in the least. I honestly would have paid to have them leave the stage. I was hoping I could find a video to show you, but since I couldn't, I will try to describe the insanity that was on stage.

Bentzen Ball Day 2-69
See? Image found here.
Two people come out dressed like dinosaurs in space suits, and even when they take their dino heads off to reveal the two young men inside the costumes, they continue to sing about dinosaurs and essentially how they're going to turn all the people in the room into dinosaurs. The lyrics don't really make sense, and they're half singing, half talking through them. The two guys were sort of dancing, even coming off the stage to throw pamphlets into the audience, and then returning to the stage and sort of crawling around. Before you know it, one thing leads to another and one of the guys is naked on stage except for the diaper he's wearing. And that was it. What. The. Fuck.

Image found here.
Then a local comedian Jason Weems came on stage. I was so glad that he started his act with stating how ridiculous the previous performance was. He then mostly told jokes about being a father, which I always find hilarious since those sorts of stories just confirm my feelings of not wanting children. Here are some videos I found online from some of Jason's other shows:

 Melissa Villaseñor was next. She's one of the newest cast members of Saturday Night Live, so I wasn't very surprised that she wasn't that funny, seeing as SNL hasn't been any good since the 90's. Her natural voice is so annoying to listen to, so at least part of her routine was doing impressions so that we didn't have to listen to her own voice anymore. Here's a sampling of her impressions (though this video does not include her Michael Jackson impression, which was very good and included the moon walk):

Image found here.
Then Michael Ian Black came on. His entire routine was about cargo shorts and how some men wear them year-round. Really? It wasn't that humorous, and it was too reminiscent of Daniel Tosh's joke about cargo pants to be original (see below).

Then it was time for Bridget Everett. I saw her about a year ago in California (read that blog post here), but I had forgotten how over the top she is; she even called those of us who were seeing her for a second time "sick fucks." I remembered that she was a bosomy woman who liked to interact with the crowd and put her boobs in people's faces. But she is so much more than that. She says she is a cabaret singer, and I will say, she does have a really good singing voice. But when you listen to the words of her songs, you can't help but blush! However, I will say that I remembered several of the songs she performed, so I'm not sure how often she comes up with new material. She sort of serenades people; this time she centered in on one older man whom she named "Gary," and she would not leave the poor man alone all night long! Same with a Bernie Sanders look-a-like and a heavily bearded hipster. Just remember this if you go to see her: don't sit in an aisle seat or in the front row; it's like the Splash Zone at SeaWorld. Here are some videos:

And wouldn't you know that the Miley Cyrus song was included in my Bodypump class the next day. It's like the trauma I experienced the night before would not leave me alone.

PS: All of this happened, too. I'll let the images speak for themselves:

Bridget Everett Pound It
Bridget kissed this girl and then piggy-backed her onto the stage. The girl was totally cool with it, so I'm thinking she was a plant? Image found here.
Bentzen Ball Day 2-151
This is the guy she pulled up on stage for the end of her show when she sits on a guy's face. He was not enthusiastic. Image found here.
Bentzen Ball Day 2-175
Like this. Image found here.

Bentzen Ball Day 2-125
That's "Gary." Poor guy. Image found here.
Bentzen Ball Day 2-158
I don't know if that is a regular bikini top on a big lady or an extra-small one made just for the show...Image found here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Recipe: Pumpkin Roll

Image found here.
As much as I love pumpkin everything, I actually had never made a pumpkin roll before! So this weekend a friend of mine and I got together and made one. It is delicious! Actually, the batter as well as the filling are so good that I might even suggest just eating them with a spoon rather than baking the roll itself...

  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel. Don't worry, the towel will be explained later!)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup canned pure pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 cup walnuts (optional)

  • 1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

For cake:
1. Preheat over to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-in. jelly-roll pan; line with wax or parchment paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar (enough so the cake won't stick to the towel).

2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in a large bowl until thick. Beat in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture.

3. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. Sprinkle with nuts if you are including them.

4. Bake for 13-15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched (i.e. It might look a little moist, but test with a toothpick to make sure it's baked all the way.); if you are using a dark-colored pan, begin checking on the cake at 11 minutes.

5. Once the cake is done, immediately loosen and turn it upside down onto the prepared towel. Carefully peel off the paper. Roll up the cake and towel together, then let it sit to cool on a wire rack.

For filling:
1. Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla extract in small bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll the cake and spread the cream cheese mixture over the cake. Re-roll the cake, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it for at least an hour. Then serve! (You can sprinkle the outside of the cake with powdered sugar before serving if you'd like.)

Because I like to take shortcuts with recipes to make my life easier, I did not add nuts, and I didn't bother sifting the powdered sugar (totally unnecessary, IMO). I really liked the towel technique in this recipe. I always wondered how people rolled the cake without it cracking! Rolling the cake around the towel while it's still warm allows the cake to form into the roll shape; the towel acts as the filling (if you will). Very cool, and it works! I will definitely make this recipe again!

Find the original recipe here.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Concert at the University of Mary Washington

Last weekend, I went down to Fredericksburg, VA to visit a friend. While I was there, we went to a classical music concert at the University of Mary Washington. Here are the pieces we heard:

1. Jean Sibelius' Finlandia
This is a patriotic piece which was written during a time when Russia had complete control over Finland.

2. Bedřich Smetana's Moldau
Smetana (pronounced SME-tana, not smet-A-na, which is how a student at the university said it), was a Czech composer, and he wrote this piece describing the Moldau river (also known as the Vtlana in Czech; Moldau is the German name). The music tells the story of two springs which meet to become a river which wanders through multiple landscapes, like forests and fields, and even passes a wedding and a group of nymphs dancing. The university included a slideshow of photographs to align with the music; while a video rather than a slideshow may have been more effective, I still appreciated the mix of artistic mediums. And as an environmentalist, I really enjoyed listening to a piece that was inspired by nature!

3. Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 (He only needs one name, like Madonna or Cher!)
This was a revolutionary piece when it was written, and still is seen as such. The piece is twice as long as traditional symphonies of the early 1800's, and he completely changed the traditional structure as well, coming in too strong in the beginning and quieting things when there would normally be a climax. Beethoven broke all the rules!

I really enjoyed this concert, and I hope I can attend similar ones at other colleges in the future!

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet

In case you didn't know, this will be the Suzanne Farrell Ballet's last season. Because of this, I knew I wanted to buy tickets to see them dance at the Kennedy Center this fall. I like that this company performs several shorter pieces instead of one long ballet; it gives the show more variety!

Danses Concertantes

Image found here.
This was by far my least favorite portion of the night. I just could not get past those garish costumes! The notes in the program said the costumes were supposed to resemble those designed by Eugene Berman in the 1940's, but all I could see were men wearing beanies and ruffles and women who looked like Crayola crayons (except for Valerie Tellmann-Henning, who was dressed like a bumblebee). See:
Image found here.
And it wasn't just the costumes that bothered me. The choreography was silly, including jazz hands and flirtatious facial expressions. It was like physical comedy, a show that children would giggle at as they watched. Add on top of that the fact that many of the dance movements were off-beat with the music (written by Stravinsky), which distracted me even more. I was watching this piece thinking, "I can't imagine the Mariinsky or Bolshoi ballet companies performing this rubbish." And each threesome*/pair took a separate curtain call, as if they deserved extra applause! This piece was simply frivolous, which is not a word I like to associate with the ballet.

*The woman next to me said she kept thinking ménage à trois while watching this piece. EEK!

Gounod Symphony

Image found here.
I am sorry that the photo above does not do justice to this piece. These are brand new costumes, and they are beautiful! They look like fun summer dresses rather than costumes (I would wear one!), and the mix of black and white made the intricate patterns of the choreography really pop. The dancers would weave in and out amongst themselves and make shapes that must have been amazing to see from higher up (I was really close to the stage). I just thought this piece was incredible to watch.

I will say that the principal dancers, Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook, look kind of old (though they have both been careful to hide their age from the Internet). And her costume, which I think was supposed to look gold, really just came off as taupe, unfortunately. But that's just a side note! I really enjoyed watching this piece, and some of the choreography included moves I had never seen before in ballet, so that was exciting!

Stars and Stripes

Image found here.
Image found here.

Although Balanchine was from Russia, he did become an American citizen and was proud to be an American. This piece shows his patriotism for the United States, and is set to music written by John Philip Sousa (like this familiar song).

The photos above don't really show how over-the-top these costumes are. The women wore either pink or almost iridescent purple tutus, along with white gloves and tights that gave the impression that they were wearing little white socks. The overall style looked like a combination of Minnie Mouse and Uncle Sam. All of the dancers wore little hats with feathers sticking out the top (like cat toys), and some carried batons or bugles to complete the ensemble. It was all a little too much.

The choreography was a bit trite. Who knows how many salutes were wrapped into this one number, and the women did their best to "march" in their pointe shoes. But I did enjoy that the main male dancer, Thomas Garrett, looks like a long-faced Chris Evans, which fits perfectly with his character El Capitan (vs. Captain America). And the set did include a large American flag which was much appreciated.

Overall I really enjoyed the performance. I realize I tend to focus on costumes a bit too much, but I'm a very visual person, and certainly know more about fashion than I do about dance. But I love the way ballet mixes art and dance and music and fashion, all into one! I will miss the Suzanne Farrell Ballet!

And if you're curious (like I was) about how ballet pointe shoes are tied, here's a video:

Please see my previous blog post about the Suzanne Farrell Ballet.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

My trip to Southern California!

Every Columbus Day weekend, I visit my sister who lives just outside of Los Angeles. It's perfect timing: it's a long weekend, it's still warm enough to go to the beach, and if time allows, I can visit my grandfather who lives in Laguna Beach for his birthday, which usually overlaps with the holiday. I was not able to see him this trip, but we did do a lot of other fun things!

Solvang, CA. Photo credit: Taylor Arion
Dutch souvenirs
Windmill in Solvang. Photo credit: Taylor Arion
My sister and I spent the first day of my visit walking around Solvang, a little Dutch town just north of Santa Barbara. There was actually a wine festival in Solvang that day which we didn't even know about, but since we were driving, we settled for a nice wine tasting at Lucky Dogg Winery. We then enjoyed brunch at the Little Mermaid Restaurant, and afterward checked out the little shops around town. Then we did some shopping in Santa Barbara, where I bought a green scarf (because 1. I need more scarves like a hole in the head and 2. I need more Dartmouth green things). After our long day out, we headed to our hotel and had dinner at Two Trees Cafe (see my Yelp review here).

We spent the next day in Ventura, about 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara. We spent several hours at the beach, sunbathing while listening to the sounds of the waves and sea lions; it was the epitome of a sunny California day. There was no boardwalk or pier by the beach, so there weren't too many people around, which was quite pleasant. After we were totally bronzed, we went into town and checked out several consignment and antique stores. And on the way back, we checked out a pumpkin patch and decked out my sister's place for Halloween.

Pumpkin patch in Ventura. Photo credit: Taylor Arion.
All the cute little pumpkins and gourds my sister got for Halloween.
On my last day of my vacation, we stuck around my sister's neighborhood. We did more shopping (Isn't that what vacations are for?), and we saw the new movie The Girl on the Train (a good mystery!). We had dinner at Brand 158 (see my Yelp review here), and then ended the night playing board games and drinking wine at home. 

Actually, there was quite the delay.
I should also mention that I visited In-N-Out Burger for the first time on this trip. I always hear people raving about it, and it's such a California icon that I figured I should try it. Let's just say that I was immensely disappointed. First of all, even though this is "fast food," we had to wait close to 15 minutes, just for two burgers! Also, online I saw that I could order my burger with bacon, but this particular location didn't have bacon, so I couldn't even order what I wanted. I didn't even bother getting fries because my sister says their thin, hard, and crunchy, which sounds like the reject fries I leave at the bottom of my McDonald's bag. After the first bite of my burger, all I could think of was "meh." So to all of those people who rave about In-N-Out, take it down a notch; just because this place is in California doesn't automatically make it fabulous.

Now I'm back on the East Coast and already missing the warmth and sunshine of California. And my sister of course! Until next year!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Opera in the Outfield 2016

Image found here.
 Opera in the Outfield was more than a week ago, so apologies for the delay of this blog post!

Every year, Nats Park partners with the Kennedy Center to broadcast a live performance of an opera to the big screen at the baseball park, and people can attend for FREE! This was the first year that I actually was able to go, and I loved it!

First of all, the Kennedy Center now has their BravO program, which is essentially for young professionals who support opera. The group had a party before the show, so that was a lot of fun to enjoy some yummy snacks (including hot pretzel bites!) before grabbing our seats. You can actually sit on the field, but my friends and I were in the stands; it's less windy there, and in case it had rained, we would be under the roof!

This year's program was "The Marriage of Figaro," an opera composed by Mozart. It's quite a silly story, really. Two servants, Figaro and Susanna, are about to get married, but Count Almaviva wants to have his way with Susanna (!) before she gets married. Of course the couple does not want this, and they get the Count's wife, Countess Almaviva, involved to try to stop this plan. They try to find a way to trick the Count into showing his cheating ways, and the rest of the performance focuses on these shenanigans and "he-said-she-said" stories and lies. Honestly, all the characters should have just sat down and talked to one another rather than dealing with all this mischief, but I guess that wouldn't have been as funny (or as long).

Lisette Oropesa as Susanna. Image found here.
While the story was over-the-top and frivolous, the acting and singing were wonderful. Lisette Oropesa played Susanna, which is actually the longest soprano role in all of opera! She did an amazing job, as did Ryan McKinny, who played her betrothed Figaro. I thought Amanda Majeski (as the Countess) had the prettiest singing voice, and Aleksandra Romano was hilarious as Cherubino, a male role that is always played by a woman. I also loved the colorful costumes and beautiful set. Bravo!
The bedroom of the Countess. Image found here.
Amanda Majeski as Countess Almaviva. Image found here.
I must admit that, as usual, I did fall asleep during a bit of the performance. It was late, I was cold, and honestly, with the lack of plot in this opera, I figured I wouldn't really miss much. And I didn't. But all in all I did enjoy the evening, and I would definitely see another opera!