Friday, December 14, 2018

Theo: Root Beer Barrel Dark Chocolate

Theo's Root Beer Barrel bar is the second of their no-longer-new chocolates that I've been wanting to try for quite a while now. My head skipped over the "barrel" part and was just thinking of root beer the soda, but it turns out that Theo was going for root beer barrel candy rather than the soda. Being of the younger generation, that candy wasn't the first thing to come to mind, though I definitely do remember them. Hmm. Even though they're more of a nostalgia candy and I do tend to love the nostalgia candy, I don't think I usually see them for sale with other such candy. I can't think of seeing them for sale anywhere in particular; I just know that I do remember eating them. The idea of root beer barrel chocolate, in any case, is definitely what I would call a unique concept.

By the time this chocolate bar came to be unwrapped by me, it wasn't looking too pretty anymore, so I would almost rather skip photographing it at all. However, I did desire to capture this little gem peeking out; it's the candy element that I hadn't been expecting when I at first thought of simply root beer soda. But if you're going for root beer barrel candy, then a crunchy candy element makes sense.

Along with the Theo dark chocolate aroma (this is their 55% cocoa), this bar does have a distinct root beer scent to it. Though I'm not at all a soda person (surprise, surprise, eh?), root beer is the one I have more affection for (along with cream soda). It has that old-fashioned flavor and feel that takes you back to the young days of soda, the days in which you went out to the soda fountain to get a drink instead of buying it by the liter at the grocery store.

You'll want to crunch slightly into this chocolate to get into the flavor. Then you'll start getting that root beer taste along with the sugared candy flavor, all kind of enveloped in the chocolate. It's unique without feeling weird. That spritzy root beer taste springing around rather amazes me: it tastes just right. And the sugary bit is in the perfect balance, just enough to give that reminder of candy. The chocolate, as well, comes in with the correct proportion. It's dark enough to hold its own and keep the piece from being candy while also not so dark as to lose that sense of whimsy.

I definitely recommend this one. It's what nostalgia chocolate or novelty chocolate should be. It's what casual chocolate should be. It's what flavor experiments should be. It's a lot of fun and it tastes good and it's good quality. It's exactly the type of product that Theo continues to deliver so well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Oz on the Big Screen

While it is an experience to watch a movie for the first time on the big screen, it is equally so to see a movie that you've seen many times before on the home screen on the big screen for the first time. The movie in question right now is The Wizard of Oz.

What a grand and great spectacle is The Wizard of Oz. The visuals and the acting and the music and the effects. I used to watch this movie so often, along with the making of material that would play along with the VHS rental. And yet still there were, on the big screen, things that I had never quite noticed before. Small things in a corner of the frame or just details that needed more space to come across. So much detail.

It's like watching a movie for the first time; it really is. Imagining that this audience is the audience that sat to watch this movie when it first came out back in the thirties. The excitement as the tornado gets stronger and closer. The awe when the film turns all at once to color when you reach Oz. The merriment of meeting the Scarecrow, the first of Dorothy's new friends and travel companions. 

When I was younger, probably it was all of the visuals that drew me in to this movie. Now I greatly appreciate its theme. The theme is appreciating what you have. Dorothy realizes that she has friends and family that she cares about and who care about her and that she wouldn't trade those relationships for anything. The Wizard of Oz may not be a holiday film, but reflecting on it during the Thanksgiving to Christmas time has felt entirely fitting. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Holidays Commence

Each holiday season keeps developing anew. This year there was much more to go along with Halloween . . . and also a little less. I have a few Halloween decorations but I didn't even put them out because I simply didn't feel like it. Thanksgiving I went for in full force with my usual flocks of turkeys and Thanksgiving day itself, while nice, slipped by so quickly in favor of a very busy Black Friday weekend.

My head emerged to find that, in and out of it all, I managed to put up my tree and various other dressings. It looks festive . . . and yet it took me a moment to be able to look over and be pleased that it was festive. My eyes were at first still a little tuned out to Christmas lights and all.

I also stumbled into Southwest Shakespeare's Holiday Show. Once more, I'd been certain that I wouldn't be able to go, so I'd been in the mindset that I didn't need to see it. Suddenly, though, there I was, making my way over to Taliesin West. Taliesin. Taliesin is always worth a little trip with the way that it's nestled among the saguaros a step out away from the city. The show itself was a sort of mix of music and sketches, Christmas mainly with a touch of Hanukkah. A casual and merry concoction to usher in holiday time.

While I don't involve Santa in any of my Christmas decorations or traditions, I've realized that The Samta Clause is one of my favorite Christmas movies (along with Mickey's Christmas Carol). So some eggnog and the movie and some of the last of the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie one night also started to set the tone.

Maybe it was the Christmas shopping that set me off, too. Usually I have most of my Christmas shopping done by November; this year I had barely started. So digging in to that and getting started on, ahem, stocking things (I have always loved the idea of candy; home videos of me on Christmas morning at two years old will verify this) started to settle me in.

Not that I think Christmas is all about gifting and decorations (which is part of the reason why I like to shop early: so that by the time the season actually starts, I'm done thinking about gifts). Christmas is also about light and about new beginnings and about joy and about accepting the light and sharing the light and enjoying the light together.

This year I finally bought a star for my tree. I have a Victorian-esque tree with just "candles" and pinecones and a few berries. I'd been holding out on buying a star until I found one that I really liked. This one is from Balsam Hill. It's covered in beads and the beads catch the light from the tree.

Let's catch and spread the light this Christmastime. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Turkeys Go Marching Two by Two

Turkeys, turkeys, turkeys. Turkeys are my dears. And Thanksgiving is my dear, too. So in honor of the Thanksgiving season, here are my new turkeys this year (I already have very many).

First off is this little bowl I found secondhand last week. Given that I already own the matching teacup and saucer, it was a nice find.

This wooden trivet is a handmade item I found at Wheat's Fair Trade Store. Always good to keep them in mind for products like this. 

World Market kept going with their dressed-up turkey this year by putting him on a name card holder. I probably won't be using it in the intended way, so I just got one. 

From their new plates this year, I went for the lady turkey and skipped out on the tom because I already have him on a previous design. I don't mind the clothing on the turkeys, but I do wish they'd left out the purse. It takes away from the tone to me.

Somewhat similar in style is my Masha D'yans calendar. Her work is so fun, and the November illustration is no exception.

One antique store find out of two. This one is made of shells and the other is a green, Navajo folk art piece (I didn't get a picture of that one). I think this is the first Thanksgiving I've had both of them.

Last is the little clay turkey someone gave me. It's sitting happily on my whatnot shelf with all the pigeons. 

Just one week left in the time of the turkeys. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Death of Charlie Parker

Given that normally I'm not much of a jazz fan, I did think I might skip Charlie Parker's Yardbird from Arizona Opera's RED series. When I won some tickets at Aria Jukebox, though, that seemed the perfect excuse to go ahead and see something a little different, something that didn't call to me as much. Oftentimes, after all, it's the risks that lead to exciting and new artistic experiences.

Musically, though, this piece felt more like opera than jazz than I'd been expecting. Maria de Buenos Aires in September, for instance, was the tango opera that had the definite tango feel to the music. I am, however, without any knowledge of music, so this is all I can say on this aspect. I only bring it up to mention that it wasn't the style of the music that ended up keeping me distant.

It was the story. The production takes place after Charlie Parker dies. The concept is that he is writing his last piece, a symphony, before he moves on. Instead of seeing him write a symphony, though, we hear him talk about writing and we see him reliving moments in his life/meeting again important people from his life. And while there are certainly inspirational aspects to his story, mainly his life just came across as incredibly depressing.

A musically brilliant man going up against segregation and discrimination. A boy from a small town who wants to make it big in the city. A man who falls from one relationship into another. A person who finally jumps into the arms of drugs to try and deal. I tend to be a sucker for depressing artist stories, but not of this variety. This plot wasn't really for me, so it was hard to come out of this production either moved or entertained in more than a casual way.

Not to say that there weren't aspects that even I, as I suppose the wrong target audience, didn't appreciate. The performers did well. Stephanie Sanchez as Baroness Nica brought me back to the feeling of Main Stage performances at Symphony Hall. Joshua Stewart as Parker himself had some moments of absolutely sweet and warm notes. Du'Bois A'Keen added a unique element as the dancer giving a visual interpretation of the music. He reminded me somewhat of Emma Shapplin's dancer on her Macadam Flower tour. And this production was a great example of the successful use of projection. They projected onto real bases in order to give the sense of different places while also making each of those places feel solid.

Hmm. I try and make a point of the fact that I don't write reviews; I write reactions. And when it comes to Arizona Opera, I write reactions as a casual yet regular attendee without any knowledge of music or opera. When it comes to Charlie Parker's Yardbird, that leaves me with very little to say. What this production offered to me was a contrast. By being part of the mix, it showed me how wonderful certain other productions are and helped me to see just why they can be so moving.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Theo: Cinnamon Horchata

I had heard tell, through means of that called the Internet, of some exciting flavors from Theo for quite a while. Given that I don't normally order chocolate, such flavors had to wait until finally I saw them at World Market earlier this year. We'll start off with the Cinnamon Horchata, which is a perfect flavor combination to ease us into fall.

As is usual with Theo, the packaging is lovely. Flowers and cinnamon sticks and red patterns and yet it's all kept against a white background so as to stay balanced and not chaotic or overdone.

Now, I didn't get much of the cinnamon flavor on the first bite until the chocolate was almost melted. It is, though, a good cinnamon taste, fresh and with the right amount of strength. You can taste it in a strong sort of way and yet not in such a way that it becomes spicy.

What makes it Cinnamon Horchata, though, you ask? That would be the crisped rice. The odd thing, though, is that Theo has gone with the current trend to use both crisped rice and quinoa. I've already gone over why I don't see the point in doing that, but I also don't understand in this case because rice is what you use in horchata, not quinoa. So if the crisped rice is the only horchata element (and already an element that's kind of stretching the concept), then why take out part of it to use quinoa?

Still, that's all in theory. In practice, the quinoa is indistinguishable from the rice. The crispy texture isn't exactly reminiscent of drinking horchata, though it is true that naming this chocolate Cinnamon Horchata sounds more exciting than Cinnamon with Crisped Rice. So I suppose it works.

Theo makes good milk chocolate, some of my favorite milk chocolates to share with people. This bar contains their 45% milk chocolate, so it's a little richer, which goes well with the cinnamon. And, you know, if you like some crisped rice in chocolate to give it that casual touch, then here it is. Theo does wonderfully with chocolate like this. Chocolate that has a simple flavor (cinnamon in this case) and a touch of uniqueness (the crisped rice) and a solid, quality chocolate base.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Horror of Frankenstein

Despite being perhaps the most famous story of them all, Frankenstein is one of those books that tends to take readers by surprise. Expecting a horrific tale full of action and suspense, they instead find a book filled with pages of philosophical thought. And despite there being movie adaptation after adaptation of the story, most of them focus on the physical scene of bringing the creature to life rather than on all of the philosophical thought (not to say that they don't include it at all; they just put the focus on the action).

Southwest Shakespeare Company is currently performing Quinn Mattfeld's adaptation of Frankenstein. He is part of the new artistic director team of the company. What this production, directed by Patrick Walsh, sought to present was a balance between the action and horror that modern audiences expect from this story and the philosophical elements that Mary Shelley herself wrote in her novel. They allowed the story to get a little dark and spooky at times to go for that Halloweentime feel and they also kept in passages of deep thought about life and death and creation and science and experimentation.

Now, I did overhear someone commenting that the play, while extremely well-acted, was a bit choppy. I did also get the overall sense that much of the audience, if they had read the novel at all, didn't really remember much from it. So what someone else might have found as choppy, I found as their way of balancing out these two elements of the story and keeping it from being a flat, monotone, philosophical piece. I should here note that I'm not calling Shelley's novel flat or boring. Far from it; it's a wonderful work. It's just what we would today call "slow," which doesn't necessarily lend itself towards something like a movie or a play today. And that is, of course, why most of the adaptations take such a different focus.

There was, certainly, more narration in this play than there tends to be in plays. Yet the way that scenes were played out kept things moving. The lighting, too, helped to create that sense of drama and weight and also to express the violence of certain scenes (like Mary's death) that couldn't necessarily be played out live. Joshua Murphy once again ruled the stage as the Creature, playing both the newly-created childlike figure and the classically-educated man. Jesse James Kamps as Dr. Frankenstein brought the obsession of a man fully bent on a project and the true horror of a man faced with a situation to which he can see no solution.

That's the horror of Frankenstein, isn't it? Creation is part of life and death is part of life and creation unleashes a whole new world of possible occurrences which you cannot predict.

You still have two more chances to catch Frankenstein; it's running through this Saturday at the Mesa Arts Center.