Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sabering a champagne bottle.

This New Year's Eve there will be many many parties with, if you are lucky, absurd amounts of champagne. I must admit an absolute weakness for the the bubbly liquid and would drink it and nothing else for the rest of my life if I could (still trying to figure out a way to make that happen). One of the most impressive things I have ever seen or done with a champagne bottle (well, second most but the most impressive is....not something to speak of in polite company) is sabering it. When done right it is a wonder to behold. When done wrong there are lawsuits. Hence, I wanted to teach everyone how to avoid the lawsuits and fully impress everyone you are with at your New Year's Eve party this year.

1. DISROBE YOUR BUBBLY: Take your well-chilled bottle of champagne and remove both the foil and the wire cage covering the cork (as you probably know, it's essential the bottle be well-chilled to avoid leakage, foaming and premature cork-popping).

2. LOCATE YOUR TARGET: Locate one of the two vertical seams running up the side of the bottle. Where the seam meets the lower lip of the bottle is the point at which you'll aim.

3. CONTROL YOUR SABER: Grip the bottle firmly around the base. Point the bottle at a 30-45 degree angle away from all people, windows and, obviously, Faberge eggs. Now take your saber (or the back edge of a chef's knife) and lay the blade flat, just below the lip at the weak spot.

4. MOMENT OF TRUTH: Draw the sword back along the seam and then swing with full force away from your body, upward and into the bottom of the lip. Don't forget to follow through (as with any sport, see the cork popping, be the ball). To minimize spillage, turn the bottle upright immediately afterward.

5. VICTORY: If done right, the cork and bottle top will thrust several feet into the air, and you will lose no more than an ounce of your champagne. And you will be a hero.

Of course, the only thing that looks worse than struggling with a champagne cork is struggling with a saber and a champagne cork, so in a word: practice.

The one caveat I would like to add to this is that nothing looks better than seeing someone sabering a champagne bottle in a great suit, a tuxedo or a stunning party dress. Yes ladies, you can do this too...and should. Though I have never seen a female do it I cannot even imagine how sexy it must be.

In closing just let me say that while I do not condemn overindulgence at a great party I will advise like I always do, "Be mindful." Please make sure you will not be driving at the conclusion of your revelries and be sure to drink plenty of water over the course of the evening to avoid the dreadful New Year's Day hangover.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

To you and yours.

Wishing you and all those you gather close for the season a very merry Christmas
a joyous Hanukkah a peaceful winter solstice or simply a happy December 25th.

Warmest Regards,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wright tour: Part 2, Studio and beyond.

     After days and days and what seemed to be endless computer issues we are back up and running. A couple of weeks ago I posted the first installment of the post, Wright tour: Part 1, Home Sweet Home, today you will see its incredibly exciting conclusion...well, perhaps not "incredibly."

     Part 2 of our tour takes us through Frank Lloyd Wright's studio that he designed (shocking right?) and build onto the existing home in 1898 and where he completed a quarter of his life's work. Wright used his residence as something of an architectural laboratory, in the studio he and his associates developed a new and singularly unique American architecture, Prairie style, and designed 125 structures, including such famous buildings as the Robie House, the Larkin Building and Unity Temple.So once more, with our not as good as I would like camera in hand, we finish our tour.

     Oh right, the "...and beyond" part. After we went thought the Home and Studio tour we walked around Oak part just a bit as it was starting to get dark and cold. I've added a few of my favourite houses in the area. As an added bonus I got a shot of Hemingway's birthplace...yes that Hemingway.

I waited for ten minutes for that bloody car to move...damn him.
Such wonderful symmetry no?
I've always been quite taken with the stork capitals.
They signify the tree of life, the book of knowledge, an architectural scroll,
and the two storks represent wisdom and fertility.
"Boulder" which was designed by Wright and executed by sculptor Richard Bock, it symbolizes the struggle of the oppressed and shackled soul to break its bonds and find self expression.
The reception area.
Into the "Drafting Room"
A Wright designed pot, originally in his office. Sorry for the lack of detail,
all the close-ups came out quite blurry.
I've had much, much, much worse work stations. How about you?
Wright had this massive fireproof vault installed after...come on, you know this...think famous cow.
This chain system is actually the support system for the entire structure and holds up the balcony...
...see, told you so.
I just love this ceiling, such perfect order and balance.
The original model Wright made for the Robie House.
Wright's personal office.
The storage area / walkway leading into the conference room...but for reasons beyond me I am looking back towards the reception area.
I love that Wright kept the conference room intimate.
Here is a floor plan to get a good idea of how everything fits together.
And thus concludes our tour, next we head back outside.
This image does no justice to this amazing Ginkgo tree next to the studio.
Now for the "..and beyond" part.
Cute right?
For some reason I started calling this place "The Keep", can't possibly imagine why.
Oak Park is just full of wonderfully charming homes like this.
This feels like something out of a great old German fairytale to it.
I took this just for the trees, the colours were quite compelling.
I had to get this great home in three shots, so 1.
and 3.
We were quite surprised to come across this. How I do love finding unexpected knowledge.
And we come to the last home of the day. Remember what I said it would be?
Yes, that Hemingway.

     If you plan on spending any time in Chicago or live in the area I strongly recommend making some time for the Wright Home and Studio and for Oak Park in general, you will definitely not be sorry.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sunday morning classics.

It has finally taken a turn for the cold here in Chicago in these last few days, thank goodness. Thanksgiving feasts are a welcome recollection in our recent memories and we cast our thoughts and sights to the onset of the coming Winter, Christmas and New Year (and for me a birthday somewhere in the mix).

This time of year I always become quite introspective, I reflect on the year that has past, on the victories and the failures, the new beginnings and the bitter endings, the good the bad and indeed the ugly. As such my music selections tend to become a bit more dramatic and in fitting with Wintry nature, introspective. To those of you more familiar with classical music you will probably not be terribly surprised that this means a lot of Russian and Germanic composers.

Therefore today I share with you a selection from a truly wonderful work by Franz Schubert Winterreise. Translated "Winter Journey", this is a song cycle for voice (tenor) and piano that Schubert composed in 1821 as a setting for 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller. Today's piece is the final movement entitled Der Leiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man). This version is sung by Thomas Quasthoff who's voice is awe inspiring with the masterful Daniel Barenboim at piano. Please enjoy.

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