It’s hard to believe that 2011 is about to end. Time seems to fly by so much faster when one gets older.
When the year began, I was able to start posting again after being sidelined for four months by the severe pain caused by a herniated disk and pinched nerve in my neck. Happily, by the end of January, I became fully recovered.
M reached the Biblical three score and ten on the 26th of January. We celebrated at EMP twice: dinner with J and the P.G. on the previous Saturday and lunch on the day of, just the two of us.
We celebrated our 43rd Anniversary at EMP in June. And my birthday lunch at EMP in October became a major memorable event when I was gifted EMP: The Cookbook by the staff.
Of the nine plays we saw this year, only one was not part of our Roundabout subscription. Time Stands Still starred Laura Linney, Brian d’Arcy James, Eric Bogosian, and Christina Ricci. All gave excellent performances in a play that was interesting and engrossing.
Two plays from the Roundabout’s 2010-2011 season which we saw this year really stood out. We’ve seen The Importance of Being Ernest a few times before, but this production was especially terrific because of Brian Bedford’s performance as Lady Bracknell — astonishing and a total hoot. Then, there’s Anything Goes. Let’s face it! With music and lyrics by Cole Porter, and Sutton Foster a modern-day Ethel Merman, there’s no way this musical classic could be anything but fantastic. The finale of Act I alone is worth the price of admission.
The 2011-2012 season began with Terrance Rattigan’s Man and Boy, starring Frank Langella. As he always does, Langella dominated the stage with an exceptionally fine performance. I wasn’t much taken with Sons of the Prophet. But I was completely surprised how much I loved The Road to Mecca, a play by the South African Athol Fugard written in the 1980’s. We thought it would be about apartheid, but instead, it was about creativity, a person’s worth, and her place in the society in which she lives. The performances by Rosemary Harris, Carla Gugino, and Jim Dale were stellar. The entire first act is a dialogue between Miss Helen (Harris) and young Elsa Barlow (Gugino). When the curtain fell, M looked at his watch and commented, “A whole hour of just dialogue that was really engrossing.” The two women so inhabited their characters that listening to their conversation was like being a fly on a wall in a real house. Mesmerizing. In the second act, Marius Byleveld (Dale), who had been talked of during the first act, enters the picture. Again, the act is dialogue driven, and even though I had an inkling of how things would turn out, the interplay amongst the three characters remained fascinating to watch. We saw it on the third day of previews, and it will be at the American Airlines Theatre until the beginning of March. Highly recommended.
We saw exactly one in the theater: Midnight in Paris. I found it enjoyable but not rave-worthy. The opening scenes of Paris were stunning.
We attended two concerts. In March, The Chamber Society of Lincoln Center performed a trio by Beethoven and two quintets by Brahms. In April, we went to Town Hall to hear the Muscians from Marlboro play a string quartet by Janacek (a little too atonal for me), a string quintet by Mozart, and one of our major favorites, Mendelssohn’s “Octet in E-flat Major.” At both concerts, our dear friend Jessica Lee was one of the violinists.
We saw three ballets. The Lady of the Camellias was new to us. Didn’t much like it. Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty were wonderful as always. We’re already excited about next year because La Bayadère will be on ABT’s program.
We saw four exhibits all during the past two months. At The Met, “Steiglitz and His Artists: Matisse to O’Keefe.” At the Frick, “Picasso’s Drawings, 1890-1921.” At the Morgan Library, “Charles Dickens at 200” and “David, Delcroix, and Revolutionary France: Drawings from The Louvre.” A highlight for me was seeing an original copy of A Christmas Carol opened to the first page where I could easily read the famous first line: “Marley was dead.”
M has been using a Sony Reader for several years. I, on the other hand, remain a Luddite with respect to reading books. I like holding a real one, preferably a hardcover, and continue to regularly patronize my local library. I tend to read mostly novels and mysteries though I do occasionally read biographies and history. This year, of the 13 books I read, all were novels except for two mysteries. Here they are in alphabetical order according to author:
Paul Auster – The Book of Illusions, Brooklyn Follies, Moon Palace
I found a hardcover copy of Illusions in one of the bookcases in our apartment. J had obviously gotten it several years ago. I’d never read Auster before and enjoyed Illusions, so I took the others out from the library. Moon Palace had one small section I found boring, so I skimmed it. But otherwise, a good read. I loved Brooklyn Follies.
Elizabeth Buchan – Separate Beds. I’ve read all her previous books. The themes are about marriage.
Theodore Dreiser – Sister Carrie. A classic I’d never read before.
Dick Francis and Felix Francis – Crossfire, Gamble
I’ve read all of Dick Francis’s books, which goes back many years. He’s a former jockey whose books always involve horse racing in some way. But they are basically mysteries, his characters are interesting, and I like his writing style. He died in February. His son, Felix, co-authored the last few books, including Crossfire. Gamble is his first solo effort but under the Dick Francis imprimatur. Not surprising, the setting, characters, and his writing style are much like his father’s.
Ian McEwan – Atonement. The first book of his I’ve ever read. Fascinating plot.
Morag Prunty – Recipes for a Perfect Marriage. Another author I’d not read before. This was my favorite book of the year. Written in first person, chapters alternate between the voice of a young woman living in New York and her Irish grandmother living in Ireland and is the story of their marriages. The writing is superb, the story lines both funny and poignant.
Richard Russo – Bridge of Sighs, That Old Cape Magic.
I read Russo’s Empire Falls many years ago and enjoyed it. Hadn’t gotten around to reading these until now. His books are about relationships and life in small towns.
Scott Turow – Reversible Errors, Innocent.
I’ve been a huge fan of Turow since I read his first book, One L, a non-fiction account of what it’s like to be a first year law student at Harvard. I’ve read all his novels, starting with the smash best-seller Presumed Innocent. His writing is superb, and his stories are page turners.
I must also mention a cookbook that was published in the fall which I have been eagerly anticipating. bluestem: the cookbook is a collaboration between the owners of that eponymous restaurant in Kansas City, Chef Colby Garrelts and his wife, Pastry Chef Megan Garrelts, and our dear friend and my blog mentor Bonjwing Lee (aka ulterior epicure). The Garreltses provided the recipes while Bonjwing took the photographs and wrote the text. It’s a wonderful read, the photos are gorgeous, and the recipes are user-friendly.
I’ve been watching “The Young & the Restless” since it came on the air. Thank goodness for “fast forward,” so I can get through the plots that are ridiculously silly or utterly boring. I’m hooked on “The Good Wife,” “Royal Pains” (Yay! It’s coming back on January 18), and “The Closer” (I think this is the last season). I also enjoyed watching “Suits” and am interested to see where it goes when it returns for a second season. I loved, loved, loved the fabulous “Downton Abbey,” which will be returning on PBS’s Masterpiece with Season 2 beginning on January 8.
We didn’t make any interior changes to either our house or apartment. However, we did do a major landscaping renovation.
Only one: our escape to Pittsburgh from Hurricane Irene.
When we went to our apartment after returning from Pittsburgh, we discovered that our desktop computer had died. I’d been wanting a laptop for a long time, so instead of a new desktop, we bought a Sony VAIO. We take it back and forth, and I do use it in NJ in addition to my desktop. Once the warm weather returns, it will be especially nice to have it when I sit out on the patio.
But our electronics purchases didn’t stop there. We also traded in our ancient cell phones for iPhones. Plus, we got an iPad. I haven’t used it much, but M loves it!
And one more. M’s been unhappy with the quality of the photos from my point-and-shoot in low light despite its having an internal flash. It’s especially a problem when we have dinner at EMP. So, he bought me a new camera, a Sony nex-5. It’s taken some getting used to, but I’m getting the hang of the various settings and am enjoying using it.
One of the most exciting things that happened this year was the opening in July of Bien Cuit, my cousins’ bakery. The reception it has received from both the press and the public has been phenomenally positive. It has made many 2011 “Best” lists, the most recent being the NY Times’ “Best Under $25 Restaurants.” A bit odd since it isn’t really a restaurant, but you’ll get no complaint from us! Also, Manhattanites, listen up! You can now get Bien Cuit’s croissants and pastries without leaving the island. They are available at the recently opened UES location of Joe, the artisanal coffee shop mini-chain (on Lex, between 74th & 75th).
If you come here with any regularity, you know that I provide a list quarterly of where we’ve eaten. And you can go to my Flickr to see all the photo sets. In past years, I’ve not done any “Best” lists. However, I will be doing them for 2011, so stay tuned!
New Year’s Eve
Last year, we celebrated New Year’s Eve at Eleven Madison Park. It was only the second time that we’d ever gone to a restaurant as we prefer to spend it more quietly at home. However, given what a rotten few months I’d had and the fact that I was feeling much better, we felt we should celebrate by doing something more festive.
This year, we’re back to doing our usual New Year’s Eve fondue for two. We’ll be listening to the final selections in WQXR’s Classical Countdown (odds on bet that No. 1 will be Beethoven’s “Ninth,” as it has been for the past several years). We’ll watch the ball drop and then watch a movie on dvd. This year, it will be The Social Network.
Finally, I want to say a huge Thank you! to all of you who have visited here during 2011. Even if you have not commented, I know you are out there reading. The year-end statistics provided by WordPress tell me that this blog has been viewed nearly 23,000 times. To me, that’s truly astonishing. I hope you will continue to stop by, and I will make every effort to continue keeping you informed and entertained.
My very best wishes to everyone for a healthy and wonderful 2012!