September 19, 2009

Guitar Lesson Four or Five-ish or Who’s Counting?

So, I’ve got a song picked out—“Bookends”—and a will to learn it. My task the past few nights has been to learn the three chords of the song.

That’s it.

Baby steps, baby.

All I have to do is learn these three chords and I figure I’m halfway to Nashville (or Cleveland if you want to be a little bit Rock n’ Roll).

Each night I get a bit more sure of myself. D minor, my old friend, can be easily changed to C. And by “easily” I mean with a little counting and craning of the neck. F is nearly impossible to play for anyone of normal finger length, but I think I’m faking it pretty well.

I’m there. I’ve got my three chords. I’m ready to sing a moody folk song like nobody’s business.

Except…well…I’m pretty sure this song is a tad more complicated that just the three chords. At some point, and I’m fairly certain of this, Paul Simon uses his other hand in the song.

Time to return to my trusty songbook. Surely therein lies the answer.

Dots on grids. Hmmmm. That probably means something. And what’s this?

Capo fourth fret

What does that mean?

Okay, this is cool. I know my frets (they’re clearly illustrated in my Guitar Chord Bible). I know which is the fourth. All I have to do is figure out what a capo is.

Merriam-Webster Online

capo: the head of a branch of a crime syndicate

Okay, that’s not it.

A general Google of capo leads me to’s compelling explanation.

Oh crap.

How does anyone learn to play the guitar? How did they ever invent the guitar in the first place? Why? Why would they do this?

I think it’s time for me to take a break again.

September 16, 2009

Unwarranted Optimism

Guitar Lesson, Number Two. Okay. Here goes.

After my first attempt at guitar, I’ll admit it, I was a tad discouraged. Apparently, I’m not an intuitively gifted guitarist. I comforted myself with the knowledge that out there in the big big world are people who teach guitar. While, “I taught myself how to play guitar,” sounds much cooler than, “I learned how to play guitar at community college night classes,” I feel better knowing that I have a solid plan B available.

Thus reassured, I took another look at my songbook. I found The Little Black Songbook: Paul Simon on sale at Barnes & Noble. I love Paul Simon dearly. My subtitle is a quote from “Can’t Run But” off his The Rhythm of the Saints album. I bought his songbook because (a) I want to be the sort of person who buys the songbooks of musicians they love, (b) I love Paul Simon, and (c) I know most of his songs so well that I’ll be able to tell if I’m playing them correctly or not.

After calming down from the initial shock of “How many chords are there?!” I was able to see that the chords of each song are clearly labeled in the songbook, much how they are clearly labeled in my borrowed chord bible. I got out my iPod and began listening to Paul Simon songs for the simplest one I could learn. After calming down from the initial shock of “Why did I choose such a talented musician’s songbook?!” I found the perfect song: “Bookends.” I checked the songbook and, sure enough, there are only three chords! Plus, its one of those sad introspective Simon and Garfunkel songs so I can change chords really slowly. I can totally do this song!

Thus rearmed with completely unwarranted optimism, I began guitar lesson, number two: the easy song!

I started with D minor and I got that chord down cold. I even branched out to F and C. At the end I even tried changing between them, but only a couple times before I decided I could save “changing notes” for another lesson.

As I sit down to lesson three, I’m pretty sure the only thing that stuck from lesson two is that D minor chord.

I feel like a rock star.

Farncombe, T. (Ed.) (2008). The little black songbook: Paul Simon. New York: Fall River Press.

September 14, 2009

I’d play the Blues, but apparently that has a lot of chords.

Guitar lesson, number one: I’ll read the book!

I’m good at books. I love instructions. (Seriously, you need to put together something IKEA® and I’m your gal.) Okay, the Guitar Chord Bible starts with “Introduction.” Well, that’s handy seeing as how I’m new to this whole guitar thing. Next, “How to use this book.” Numbered lists, arrowed illustrations, color coding—I’m in instructional heaven! Next, “The fingerboard.” Um, wow. A lot of stuff goes on with these guitars, but I’m still okay. Let’s keep going. “Chord Directory.” We start with C.

This is fret one so finger one goes here and finger two goes over here and finger three—we’re stretching a bit now—goes here and strum. And strum. Is it supposed to sound like that? Strum. Something’s off. Strum. My hand kinda looks like the picture. Strum.

Then I turn the guitar over.

Hey, that’s much better!

Apparently, it helps when you hold the guitar the right way.

Okay, let’s move on to…C. There are five C chords. No wait there’s ... flipping ... flipping ... flipping ... according to this book there are at least 90 variations on the C chord!

How does anyone play guitar? How was the guitar ever invented? Why? Why would they do this? There are two to three chords on each page and the book is 253 pages long?

I look at my songbook as though some answers might lie there. I can in no way relate what is printed in the songbook to what is being illustrated so clearly in the Guitar Chord Bible.

Clearly, I’m tired after my first guitar lesson. I’m sure guitar lesson, number two, will be much better.

Capone, P. (2006). Guitar chord bible: Over 500 illustrated chords for rock, blues, soul, country, jazz, and classical. London: Quarto Publishing PLC.

September 11, 2009

The Shoeless Scullery Maid

Photo by Anne

I cook at home to save on Weight Watchers® points (goal: the healthier Anne) and to save money (goal: the fiscally responsible Anne). I am a recipe cook and try to incorporate one into my diet about once a week. I was thumbing through one of my cookbooks for this past weekend’s recipe when it occurred to me (cue trumpet flourish), “This is an opportunity to push my boundaries!” I rushed to my red folder (no kidding folks, I keep them in a red folder) of Ambitious Recipes to Try. You know the kind: those recipes you tear out of magazines, or you asked your friend to send you at that one dinner party, or you printed off the Food Network© website after watching too many cooking shows. (For those of you who don’t know the kind, just stay with me.)

I found my Ambitious Recipe: “Grilled Tuna Rolls.” I’d been watching the Barefoot Contessa and it was (a) a recipe that looked good and (b) a recipe that I actually thought I could cook. Let’s face it, Ina Garten is the sort of on-TV cook that uses parchment paper and herb grinders and several mixing bowls (goodness all those mixing bowls!). She has that Martha Stewart air about her as she trims fresh sage into yet another mixing bowl for the squab she’s grilling for her director friend who’ll be stopping by her garden party at sunset. The lady’s league ain’t mine. My one-by-one apartment doesn’t have enough storage for that many mixing bowls.

But the grilled tuna rolls were enticing and I’ve got a George Foreman© grill and a dream of being a food critic.

So here goes, Anne’s take on the Barefoot Contessa’s “Grilled Tuna Rolls.”

Health Factor: A friendly 5 pointer. Grilled tuna and avocado tossed in a light dressing on a wheat bun makes this a healthy option for most diets.

Money: I live in San Antonio and not the coastal fairyland where Ina knows her fishmonger by name. The fresh 1-pound tuna steak from the seafood counter weighed heavily on this week’s grocery budget at a whopping $15.00. I also had to purchase the sesame seeds (leave-out-able) and the wasabi (no regrets), which aren’t frequent contenders in other recipes. This was a definite splurge.

Ease: Easy peasy as a box of instant mac-and-cheesy. Grilling the tuna was a breeze on my George Foreman. The required cool down time of the tuna gave a nice opportunity to mix the dressing. Everything else (bun, arugula, avocado) was pretty much good to go.

Variations: I don’t really like onions. (I know, how can I be a food critic if I don’t like onions?!) I bravely added the scallions but the red onions were politely declined. To make up the fiber content of the missing onions, I added diced water chestnuts because (1) I love them, (2) I thought they would complement the tuna because in my mind those two things are both kind of Asian-y, and (3) I thought they would be a good crunch—like the original onions—that would be an interesting contrast to the avocado and tuna. I do not regret this substitution. It probably made the dish a bit blander, but it was good for my palate.

Also, and this was unplanned, I didn’t buy one large Hass avocado but, instead, two petite Hass avocados. One of the two had turned slightly and therefore was only partly usable. As a consequence, my avocado to tuna ratio was not quite as I hoped for.

Appearance: Not as delightful as Ina’s display on the show. This was mostly due to the fact that in my reality the tuna shreds as you cut it and the avocado is squishy. In her reality they were delightful blocks of contrasting color, not a tossed mess. Otherwise, the appearance of the meal was not too bad. I could serve this to people not related to me and expect them to eat it. (Note. The picture does not do my meal much justice. I’ve already added “Learn how to photograph food” to my list of goals.)

Taste: It was…um…weird. (No, not because of the water chestnuts.) I’ve eaten tuna sashimi before so I was sure that the rareness of the tuna would be no problem. However, there was an initial “eewww” reaction. I’m a firm believer that you should try something at least twice before you give up on it so I forged past the “eewww” and arrived, luckily, at “hmmmm.” This dish was definitely situated at the edge of my particular boundaries, but I was glad when I arrived at the destination.

Also, I piled on the arugula to have charming green leaves sprouting from my concoction. Arugula, if you don’t know, has a strong flavor. It is often included in the fancier tossed salads to give them a bit of zing. Its flavor is slightly bitter and, to me, what you would imagine green to taste like. The arugula overpowered the rest of the flavors initially. After my first bite I pruned a bit and that helped the situation. Later, in my leftovers, I left it out entirely and the sandwich became too bland. I say, use the arugula but in moderation

This might seem dumb, but I was a bit surprised when the first bite was cool. I, having actively taken part in the cooling process, should not have been surprised but—for some reason—I was expecting a warm tuna melt type of sandwich. (Despite all my efforts to the contrary.) This recipe is for a cool, limey tuna sandwich with a slight tang of spice. That’s what I got after the initial shock of not eating the sandwich I hadn’t made.

The grilled tuna rolls were, as Ina suggested, the cool sort of tuna salad sandwich that you would find at a picnic, but with an Asian flair. The avocado was a very nice complement to the rare tuna and I wish I had more of it in my version. The meal was flavorful and filling, while being just a tad funky.

Clean-up: The grill for the tuna, one bowl to mix the dressing, one bowl to mix everything, and a plate to serve. Not bad at all.

Leftovers: If kept properly in a sealable container in the fridge, tuna salad can last up to a week. General consensus, however, is that the salad's flavor starts to lose some of its charm after two to three days.

Despite all the lime juice in the dressing, the avocados turned brown in my plastic container. To prevent this (it works with guacamole), squeeze some more lime juice over the top of the mixture and then lay cling wrap across the top, preventing as much air exposure as possible. Next time you open the mixture, give every thing a good stir and that will distribute the added lime juice throughout.

Other than that, the mix was great the next night. I enjoyed my second sandwich more since I knew what to expect (and I went easy on the arugula).

Repeatability: This is the sort of recipe I would make to impress other people on an occasional basis, but I know that it’s not going to become one of my go-to standards. Good for a summer picnic, but not necessarily an ordinary Tuesday night dinner.

New thing I learned: The recipe calls for wasabi powder but in my local store’s Asian section I could only find wasabi paste in a tube (think travel size toothpaste). A quick Google told me that wasabi paste is made from mixing a little wasabi powder with water. If you have an option, the powder stores longer, but the paste requires no extra steps if you are having a sushi emergency. Either works for this recipe.

September 9, 2009

Project #3: Become a Famous Musician

Actually, I’d settle for being any type of musician. My only real qualification for this goal is that I can recognize a song when I play it. Oh sure, like anyone listening to his or her iPod while typing away in his/her cubicle, I have dreamed about my moment on stage belting out my latest heartfelt rock ballad from my best-selling album, but I’ll start small.

In my youth my Mom gifted me with piano lessons. (It was a gift. I remember enjoying the experience.) On one birthday I received a harmonica and, as I recall, thought I was terribly gifted at the time. I also had a brief run in with French horn in school band but that experience is too intertwined with junior high awkwardness to ever be mentioned again.

Otherwise, my musical experience has consisted of coveting others’ musical genius and dreaming of making something so enjoyable and stirring myself. In my favorite daydreams I strum my acoustic guitar over my morning coffee while humming my latest poetic folk song.

I blithely mentioned to my friend CiCi that I had always wanted to learn to play guitar. It’s the sort of thing you say after all. It ranks with, “I’ve always wanted to try acupuncture” or “I hear kayaking is fun.” You say things like that and the other person smiles and nods and the conversation continues. Except with CiCi. She started sending me community class schedules and suggesting where to look for cheap guitars online. Ludicrous, I know! I told my Dad about my crazy friend who actually expected me to act on a lifelong inclination, and he said, “You know I still have that old guitar. You could have it.”

What is up with the universe?! The very idea of just going out and learning guitar just because I want to and owning a guitar so I can learn and…what is going on?! I’m much more comfortable with just talking about these things and the universe expects me to act?

If that weren’t enough, my other friend Rae has a fiancĂ©, Ess, who turns out to be an actual musician. He not only taught himself guitar but can actually play music on a guitar! He restrung and tuned my out-of-nowhere free guitar in his spare time just ‘cuz. He told me my guitar (he actually referred to it as “your guitar” like I owned a guitar or something) had a nice sound. Rae lent me a chord bible and Ess suggested I get a songbook and practice. Practice. Practice. (Apparently, this is the solution to everything.)

So, here I am with a guitar, a guitar bible, a songbook, and a desire to be a musician. I think I’ll teach myself to play guitar.

What do you think? Two weeks?

September 8, 2009

Project #2: Become a Food Critic

I, like many the average person, am not totally thrilled with my job. I’ve got a good job. A solid job. A regular paycheck sort of job. It’s not the best of jobs, it’s not the worst of jobs. It’s a far far more average job than any job I’ve had before.

I like to daydream about changing jobs.

So, in my ongoing effort to be more than the average person, I consider what would be a spectacular job. What sort of job would make me leap out of bed in the morning. (“Leap out of bed in the morning for” is about as high a rating as I can give something.) In my list of possible dream jobs: famous writer, famous musician, lottery winner, and food critic.

Oh yes. My name is Anne and I’m a foodie. Or, at least, a wannabe foodie. I am what happens when someone belongs to Weight Watchers® and watches too much Food Network©. That is to say, I obsess about food. I love food. I love junk food. I love gourmet food. I love all the food in between. I love talking about food. I love eating food. They should make me a food critic.

I see the latest food critic to be introduced on Iron Chef America and I wonder, “How do you get that job?!” According to and other such sites, in order to become a food critic I need to write well and know everything about food and the food industry. It’s all downhill from there, I’m sure. The various online help-yourself sites advise practice. Practice. Practice. (Apparently, this is the solution to everything.)

So, the point of this entry: expect to see me write about food in the near future. I gotta get some practice in before Iron Chef calls.

September 7, 2009

So, what’s this blog about?

I’m no Martha. Nor an Oprah, a Teresa, a Diana, nor an Eleanor. I’m not flying across the Atlantic, leading explorers across the West, or pulling off a tuxedo in a smoky jazz club in Berlin. I’m certainly not an astronaut. Pick any female icon (heck, pick a male one) and I’m not that. I’m an Anne. Most singularly and certainly an Anne.

I’m not a bad Anne. I’m a perfectly fine Anne. In fact, at certain points in time, I’m a pretty good Anne. But I’m not the best Anne. Certainly not the best Anne I could be. I know that I could be a spectacular Anne if I just tapped into my inner Anne-ness a bit more. That’s what this blog is about. It’s about me becoming a better me.

In my angst and my little poor-me parties I always wish to be more. To be something special and outstanding. And, on the good days, I get over myself and go do something about it. I work out or search for the dream job or call that friend from college I’ve owed a phone call to for forever. On a lot of days I sigh and eat low-fat ice cream snacks. On the worst of days I keep feeling sorry for myself.

This blog is dedicated to the good days. This is about the days where I try something new, or try to do something better, or try to be happier about how I’m doing things already. This blog is about being Anne. Anne is constantly (if slowly) trying to be better.