Sunday, October 27, 2013

A musical BrightSpot in Tucson: PCC's Chorale and College Singers

My husband and I did our second volunteer-usher stint at today's PCC chorale concert.  Mark was able to take a photo of one of the two choirs during the pre-show rehearsal and a very supportive crowd attended. 

Our guesstimate was about 150 people of diverse ages.  We met one charming couple who drove from Douglas to see their grand daughter sing. 

We were familiar with the director, Dr. Jonathan Ng, who is also the music director at our occasional-church, Catalina United Methodist.  The repetoire was diverse and, to me a former youth/church choir member, pretty challenging.  One of the first pieces, Danny Boy, which I usually don't like because it reminds me of The Lawrence Welk Show, brought me to tears.  It was a lovely arrangement and sung with tenderness.  Two pieces from "Phantom of the Opera" were Mark's favorites, and while I enjoyed these, I was inspired by two pieces by Edward Elgar--so much so I had to look him up on the Internet:  This piece, based on a poem written by a poet I do not know, really moved me--even though I couldn't catch all the lyrics the melancholy mood struck me deeply.  In a mood-music change next, I tapped my feet to two songs arranged by Aaron Copland, based on America's past.

The performance ended with combined choirs and featured soloists, weaving their voices through two pieces by Joseph Haydn from "The Creation."  I didn't know these pieces either but I could appreciate the trajectory of the voices and the rhythm changes which brought the audience to close the performance with two curtain calls and a strong number of "bravos!"

What a gem we have at PCC and their Center for the Arts  The next chorale concert is December 6th and we'll be there to celebrate our 39th anniversary!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Tapas Fusion: Foodie Bright Spot on small plates

As Mark and I have become more aware of our health and are looking for good local places to eat which support this, we are delighted to share photos and brief descriptions on our latest discovery, Tapas Fusion .  Tucked away in a Campbell Ave. shopping center between Ft. Lowell and Glenn, we pass it regularly and once frequented the Italian restaurant it replaced.  So, this week, we made it a point to go in and immediately liked the comfortable design of the place.  Like the restaurant before it, there is an open kitchen, but Tapas fusion added a bar and decor that is modern and urban-chic.  But looks aren't everything--it's the taste and service that matters and both get gold stars from us on this visit.  We will definitely be back and are telling our friends to check it out, also.

We started our dinner with salad--spring greens, cherry tomatoes, artichoke pieces, olives (pitted), and cucumbers (I forgot to ask but I suspect they were Persian or English cucumbers, not the standard variety).  The light lemon vinegarette dressing was perfect--and I am not a fan of most dressings with vinegar.

Mark ordered two sliders (we ate before 6 so could still get lunch prices), one was salmon and the other BBQ chicken. 

His salad was included in his entree.

I went for the small plates and picked two:  Mediterranean Meatball Stuffed Mushrooms, dotted with mozzarella and Brie Orange Crostini sprinkled with spinach, cucumber and red pepper.  Both were absolutely wonderful.  I suspect that the meatballs had substantial amounts of garlic and were crunchy and baked in olive oil. 

Mark enjoyed the crostini, too, and the ingredients were fresh and delicate.

As part of our self-imposed calorie limits, we often abstain from dessert but we were intriqued by the "handcrafted chocolates by M. (Mary) Joseph" whom, I discovered, comes from the Phoenix area.  We ordered one dark chocolate merlot and actually split it--divine dessert that was sweet yet soothing.  So was the total bill (under $30.00) plus our usual tip for excellent service and attention as we inquired about the meal preparation and confirmed that the restaurant is owned by a local person.

Treat yourself to a bit of European pleasure at a Tucson-affordable locally owned restaurant and support Tapas Fusion.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

BrightSpots Constellation: We appreciate our Tucson artisans

As I have been paying attention to the evidence of autumn in Tucson, I have also noticed that I am sleeping better, getting more fresh air, and gaining a sense of gratitude for my life.  This coming weekend (October 11-13) offers us the Tucson Meet Yourself Festival and one of the terrific things about Tucson is we can "meet ourselves" every day if we are so inclined.  So Mark and I had our own mini-version of a Meet Yourself this past weekend and Mark took some fantastic photos that share our experiences.  The link takes you to the picasa album and photos are in order as I describe them in this post.

First off/BrightSpot #1:  The Maker House, .  I have been looking forward to this new event and learning space since they launched their crowdsourcing venture in the summer and I became a small investor.  Through that effort ($53,000) plus an additional $75,000 from the founder, Tony Ford's, software business, Art Fire, The Maker House had a soft opening on 10/5.  [Note: ArtFire is a software marketplace for arts and crafts and is second in sales only to itsy].  Tony gave us and another visitor a personal tour of the redo to the former Bates Mansion.  This 1880s mansion predated the infamous 1930s-1960s Owls Club (part bordello) and had three spacious pools (now covered and one is the floor of the Solarium) and inlaid mesquite floors (visible), along with other fine architectural elements. 

The mural by Slavador Corona was added in the 1960s who also did murals for the Manning and Jacome home.  It is one of three of his surviving murals in the USA. 

The Maker House is not a hackerspace which is the purpose of Gangplank who, along with The Maker House, Xerocraft and others have formed  Downtown Inovation Companies since July.  The Maker House is the "home" to Art Fire and will be offering affordable membership-driven classes and will also have events open to the general public. 

Their coffeehouse serves Fair Trade, nano-roasted coffee and pastries prepared by a Cordon Bleu trained pastry chef .  We had a generous cup of hot chocolate that was the creamiest we've ever had, and enjoyed the set-up for the lightshow in the refurbished courtyard.  In the near future the courtyard will feature heirloom gardening, yoga classes and an outdoor movie theatre.  All spaces at The Maker House are multifunctional and can be used/rented for diverse uses.

Next on our BrightSpot list:  The Sonoran Glass School .  I featured it last year in my blog and I can tell you that at least one visit a year during their pumpkin-glass blowing events is going to become a ritual for us. 

This year we had a long "happiness" conversation with one of their former students, now a volunteer who is starting her own glass art business .  She led us into the back room where we me master lamp/flame worker Bronwen Heilman .  She had us put on glasses so we could better view the flamework and took us, step by step through the making of a leaf shaped pendant. The flame glows at 2400 degrees and starts with her taking two solid tubes of colored glass to form a "glob of glass"; this process is called "gathering."  Then she sculpts the glass and, in this case, used a press for the leaf shape.  Next, she stretches the glass, closes it and pokes a hole in it for a necklace chain.  To finish it and prevent it from cracking, she places it in a 950 degree kiln for "annealing" where the glass molecules resettle and align. 

Just a beautiful craft to watch and we left with two small flameworked pumpkins and a decorated box with a pumpkin bead.

My #3 BrightSpot was our dinner stop at the Pasco Kitchen & Lounge, founded by Chef Romiro Scavo .  We had walked around the UA's main campus and scouted out a couple of places to eat but this one was new to us, although it has been thriving on University Blvd. for two years.  We were able to take advantage of their happy hour.  We ordered two salads and split the entree.

Mark's salad was the house-made Mozarrella and Tomato salad with spring mix, pesto and shaved parmesan.  Mine was the Farmer's Market salad which varies each day--this one had spring greens, carrots, red beet pieces, shaved parmesan.  Our entree included Heritage pork tacos and freshly made pico do gallo with green chilis and cilantro. 

Everything was tasty and our patio service came with a smile and comfortable attention.  A special "shout out" to this restaurant which features local food providers such as the UA Meat Lab, Anita's Street Tortillas and the Food Conspiracy Coop.  On the menu, not only are the providers named but the mileage number for each provider is also noted, demonstrating that the providers are indeed very local!

As we ended our weekend and drove home, we remarked to each other that life indeed becomes happier when the three digit temps are behind us and cool evenings and mornings stretch before us.  But, throughout the year, we all need to remember our local businesses and artisans who also have to survive the summer--so do a "meet yourself" twelve months a year, not only in October!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Operation School Bell: The Assistance League of Tucson--a glowing "BrightSpot"

Twice in the past two weeks, I have been a library-volunteer reader for the Assistance League's Operation School Bell.

Before arriving at the Assistance League, and having driven past its location for years, all I knew about the AL was that they had a thrift store.  I was absolutely blown away by the existence of this fantastic community-based program.  Once I arrived at the Operation School Bell site and was ushered around past the shopping area and tables for the kids to draw, write "thank you" notes and/or participate in the reading corner, I called my husband and said "you have to come over here and take photos for my blog."

He arrived and, like me, was stunned by the generosity and retail savvy of this program.  He took other photos but these are the ones I selected and shared with the League's president before I put them on this post.

Yesterday, when I arrived and was getting settled with my books, a third-grader came to me and pulled at the hole in the center of his t-shirt and lifted up his tennis show to show a hole where his big toe was poking through it.  "This is why I am here," he mumbled.  I wanted to hug him, but I didn't, of course.  Instead, I replied, "well, today you are getting new clothes."  In addition to three shirts, a pair of jeans, a new jacket, a new backpack and a pair of shoes, each child (assisted by his/her "personal shopper") selects a new book.  I read from a couple of their selections yesterday and one little girl, after quietly listening for thirty minutes, waiting for her turn to shop, commented, "You like to read, don't you?"  "I do when I have a good listener like you," I responded. 

I truly value this experience--one that our public library supports and connected me to, and now I am sharing my experience with you.  Hug a child, read to a child, buy and book and donate it to your nearest day care center.  Or find another action that will make a positive difference in Tucson or your community.