More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

March in New York March 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — dwhren @ 8:25 am

My husband had to go to New York for work this week, so I decided to go up with him for a couple of days to take advantage of the free hotel room and use up some vacation time. We headed up to New York on Monday morning and get in around lunch time. Normally when I’m in New York I’m staying in Mid-town or the Upper West Side, but this time we were staying near my husband’s office in lower Manhattan. It’s an area of the city I’m not very familiar with and it made me feel all discombobulated. Having a GPS was only so useful as every time I came out of a subway I wasn’t sure which way to walk and I chose wrong literally every time. Also the my GPS kept losing signal with the tall close together buildings. Wayfinding when I’m not a grid is not my strong suit.

Since I don’t spend much time in that part of the city I had wanted to do something down there, but unfortunately most of the museums on that side of Manhattan are small and closed on Mondays. My husband thought he could get a me free ticket to the 9/11 Museum, but it turns out that is one thing he can get into free but only for him and not a guest. I decided if I had to pay I didn’t care that much to go. It’s not something I feel like I need to relive.

So I decided to head to one of the larger museums on the Upper East Side. I was debating between the Guggenheim and the Cooper Hewitt. I essentially settled on the Cooper Hewitt because it was cheaper. I think I chose wrong. I didn’t love it. It’s a design museum, which could have been cool but I just didn’t feel like there was much there there. It’s a small museum with only 3 small floors, but one of them was closed while they set up a new exhibition so it was even smaller for me. It didn’t kill nearly as much time as I was planning on, but it didn’t leave me enough time before dinner to do much else. I wound up just sitting in a coffee shop and reading for an hour and a half.

I was excited for dinner because I have literally been dreaming about onion straw type onion rings. I was thinking about getting them at restaurants as a kid and how I miss seeing them on restaurant menus, so I was excited to see they were a choice at this restaurant. Too bad it turns out the restaurant was only trolling me as when I asked if I could substitute them as a side for a burger they told me they didn’t carry them any more even though they were still on the menu. The food was good, but I’m still disappointed.

The real reason I went up was to see Once on This Island. It’s a show I had never heard of until recently. One of the podcasts I listen to always ends with the guest playing a game of MASH with more adult categories than the ones you used as a kid where you predicted how many kids you would have and what kind of car you would drive and stuff like that. In this particular episode one of the questions was about musicals the guest would want to star in and she said Once on This Island. Literally the same week they announced the revival that is currently happening at Circle in the Square. It seemed like such serendipity it made me want to see it. I would have seen it last time I was up in New York instead of SpongeBob SquarePants if the show was not dark on Thursdays instead of the more normal Mondays. That meant I got to see it this Monday though.

The story takes place on an unnamed island, though I think it’s supposed to be modeled after Haiti, where a peasant girl saves the life of a grande hommes and falls in love with him and prays to the gods to save his life and allow their love. I have some quibbles with the plot which I assume is how the show was originally written, but I have nothing bad to say about the staging or the music. The songs were beautiful and joyous. The acting was fantastic. The production was fantastic, creative, and clever. It’s one of those shows that if it tours it’s not going to be the same. It is a really great show and something I would recommend seeing if you’re in New York during its run.

After the show we headed back to our hotel room where we discovered that the thermostat in our room was not working and it was much warmer than we would have wanted to sleep in. They couldn’t fix it, so we asked to move rooms. They were booked up for the night in the part of the hotel we were in, but the managed to switch us over into the adjoining suites part of the hotel. It didn’t matter much to me since I was only there for a night, but it will be a nice bonus for my husband for the rest of his stay in the city.

Tuesday morning I went on walkabout to find a good New York City bagel. I think New York style pizza is garbage and I don’t know who hurt all these people that think that reheated piles of grease are the be all and end all of pizza, but I will agree that there is nothing like a New York City bagel. After that I headed over to Brooklyn to the New York Transit Museum. It was my first time in Brooklyn. I’m slowly leaving Manhattan and getting to all 5 boroughs. Now I just need to hit up Staten Island and the Bronx.

I really enjoyed the Transit museum. It really is astounding how they built the subway system. It’s a marvel and something we just take for granted now. There was a cool exhibit about talked about how the transit system and transit workers dealt with disasters such as 9/11, the 2003 blackout, blizzards, and hurricanes. The lower level of the museum, which is built in a decommissioned subway station is nothing but old subway cars lined up on the tracks. It was really cool to see how they changed over the years. If you’re looking for something to do in the New York area, I would definitely recommend this museum.

And that was all for this particular trip to New York. I have two more coming up in the next month so there will be more to share soon.




February in New Jersey February 26, 2018

Filed under: Family,Friends,Travel — dwhren @ 9:03 am

My sister and her family moved from Arizona to New Jersey at the end of last year and they finally moved into their new house a couple of weeks ago. We hadn’t had a chance to get up and see them yet, but President’s Day weekend was the perfect opportunity. We were already in New York for a few days prior to that, so it was easy to hop across the river on the train to go visit. My parents were in town from Arizona as they had been out to babysit my nieces for a few days, and some of my sisters college friends who have become good friends of the whole family were up from South Carolina for the weekend with their two kids.

It was a great weekend spending time with everyone. Mostly there was a lot of card playing as that is what my family does when we are together. I also got roped into taking Year of the Cookie on the road and making chocolate chip cookies for everyone. I enlisted a few little helpers and baked cookies with my youngest niece and my friends kids. My mom of course made everyone happy making her homemade pizza. My sisters, our friends, and I have all tried to make it but none of us can get the dough right. In case you were wondering if this pizza is serious business our friends even flew with pizza pans on the plane to make sure my mom had enough pans to make pizza for everyone.

On Saturday night we got a whole lot of snow at my sister’s house. Depending on the forecast you looked at they were supposed to get either 3-5 inches or 4-8 inches. They got just under a foot. This year (at least so far) and last year in Baltimore haven’t really seen any large snow storms, so it was kind of nice to have a big snow. Even nicer because I had zero responsibility for shoveling, and got to leave before dealing with the icy, slushy, gross aftermath that always seems to linger for weeks on end and which is what really makes me hate snow. The kids of course were seventh heaven with all the snow. There’s a nice hill in the backyard for sledding, though we managed to make our sled path end so that you basically slammed into a tree, which we stuck a raft in front of to soften the blow. They’re going to have to work on that in future. I haven’t been sledding since I don’t even know when. Probably when we lived in Massachusetts, which we moved away from when I was 15. It was probably not the best for my still somewhat jacked up back, but it was fun and worth it.

We got dropped off at Newark Airport to catch the Amtrak train back to Baltimore on Sunday afternoon. It’s only a three hour drive (assuming traffic cooperates), so we’ll probably drive in the future but this time the train made sense since we were in NYC beforehand. It’s going to be nice having my sister and her family so close now. When they were in Arizona it took us a 5 hour plane ride, plus the extra time you have to allot to deal with airports, and then a 1.5 hour drive from Phoenix to Tucson. Three hours is practically nothing compared to that. It will be great to be able to see them more than once or twice a year.



February in New York February 25, 2018

Filed under: Friends,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 9:22 am

My Christmas present from my husband this past year was tickets to see Hello, Dolly! as well as spend a day in the city going to museums. His company has corporate memberships with a number of museums in New York City, which means that he and at least one guest can get in to them for free. I often go up with friends or on my own to see shows. When we go up together we are usually visiting his sister and family. Hanging out with our niece and nephew is not generally conducive to going to art museums, and I can’t take advantage of the discount unless he’s with me so part of the present was spending a day in the city going to whatever art museums I wanted to go as well.

We rode the train up on Wednesday afternoon in time to get into the city, check into our hotel, and grab dinner before the show. For some reason I had zero interest in seeing Hello, Dolly! with Bette Midler, but as soon as they announced Bernadette Peters I really wanted to go. It was an extra added bonus that Victor Garber took over from David Hyde Pierce since I was definitely way more into that casting too. I thought they were both fantastic. Normally if I see a show where an actor has replaced a different actor I’m familiar with I can see how the actor who initiated the part is informing what the replacement actor is doing. I could not see that at all in this case. Both Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber made the roles of Dolly Levi and Horace Vandergelder completely their own. I adored the show. This was my first time getting to see Bernadette Peters perform on stage and she was a complete delight. I was not the only one to be excited by her as I have never heard a crowd go as crazy for an actor not only during initial entrance applause but multiple times during the show and of course during final bows. Her ability to make me laugh uproariously with just the way she moved her eyes in certain scenes was amazing. I don’t remember the last show I laughed at as hard as I did this one. I could have done without the woman next to be singing along with all the music during the performance, but everything on stage was a complete joy. If you get the chance I highly recommend this show, and as a bonus unlike when Better Midler was playing Dolly I think you can actually get tickets for non-astronomical prices.

On Thursday we hit up a couple of art museums during the day. I wanted to go to museums I had never been to before so I chose the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art. I particularly enjoyed the Incomplete History of Protest at The Whitney, which showcased protest art from their collection from the 1940s to the present. At MoMA I was taken by the Stephen Shore exhibit, which encompassed the entirety of his photographs from his five decade career. I wasn’t familiar with him previously, but he apparently became famous for his photographs of the mundane using a variety of cameras including a cheap children’s camera that looked like Mickey Mouse. He continues his work today in digital platforms including Instagram. It was interesting see the timeline of his photos showing mundane daily life as he traveled around the country over several decades.

Thursday night we were supposed to meet up with some friends who live in NYC for dinner, but unfortunately she came down with the flu and was still not better by Thursday night. Apparently what you do when your dinner plans fall through is you go buy half price tickets to see the SpongeBob Square Pants musical. Our hotel was literally right above the Palace Theatre where it is playing and we had both heard surprisingly good things about it, so we decided why not. I’m not mad that I went to see it, but I definitely did not think it was great. I don’t have a huge background with SpongeBob, but I know enough to know the characters and their mannerisms. The best part of the show was seeing how they staged everything and how the actors evoked the characters without being costumed like them. As for the actual story and music, eh. I expected it to be a lot funnier than it was. I don’t think I really laughed much at all. The audience was full of kids unsurprisingly and I expected to hear lots of kids laughing and shouting during the show, but it was a lot of silence. Squidward was definitely the best part of the show for many reasons, but the highlight of everything was definitely his tap number. You know how much I love a tap number. Unless you have a kid who really loves SpongeBob and wants to see this, you can probably skip it.

Friday morning my husband headed off to work and I met up with my other New York City friend for breakfast. I always like when I can catch up with my friends in real life while I’m in the city. After breakfast I caught a NJ Transit train out to New Jersey to visit my family where will pick up next time.


Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit at the Lyric Opera House February 7, 2018

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 9:53 am

Last night I once again went to see Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit in concert. I adore him so much. I don’t know anyone who writes songs like he does. He’s not really a country artist, but many of his songs are like little short stories which is definitely a country influence. However, most country songs are treacly and with a plot that feels forced. Jason Isbell’s songs are the opposite of that. They feel real and true. The lyrics are poignant with amazing turns of phrase. The songs feel well lived in. I still haven’t come up with a better analogy than saying listening to his songs feels like watching Friday Night Lights. They pull the same trigger in my soul.

I saw Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit play back in the summer at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Even though I know full well that Merriweather is considered a DC venue for booking purposes, I am never not momentarily surprised when we wind up getting a Baltimore date for a tour that’s also been through Merriweather. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that they were going to be playing at the Lyric Opera House. Unlike the Merriweather show, which granted is a much larger venue, this show was pretty much sold out. I almost didn’t manage to get tickets to it, partly because Ticketmaster is a bastard. It looked like the show sold out in seconds, but I kept checking and it seems like someone let their tickets go and 2 popped up way in the back of balcony so I snagged them. Then the next day there were tons of much better tickets open. They obviously did all eventually sell, but I was really annoyed that I could have had much better seats if I had waited, which makes zero sense. At least the Lyric is a pretty small venue, so our seats were still good even if they were far back.

In addition to seeing the concert at Merriweather, I had also watched live streams of Jason Isbell’s Austin City Limits taping and one of the 5 sold out shows he did at the Ryman Auditorium last year. The set list for all three was pretty much the same with the old variation being the order of the songs that they played. So I figured we were going to get the same thing at this show. I was surprised when there was a little bit more variation than I thought there would be. For the most part it was the same, with them of course playing a lot of music from their newest album, The Nashville Sound. 

They played more songs off of Southeastern than I’ve seen recently, which made me happy. I was literally listening to “Stockholm” the night before the concert and thinking that I miss getting to hear him play that song and then lo and behold they played it last night. Of course they also played “Cover Me Up”. That is his forever and always song. I think he’ll play that in every set until he dies. The day of this show was apparently also Isbell’s 6 year anniversary of getting sober, so the crowd went even more wild than usual when he sang the lyrics, “But I sobered up and I swore off that stuff. Forever this time.” It felt really special to hear that sung on that occasion.

This show was pretty short on stage banter, which I was a little disappointed in. If you follow Jason Isbell on Twitter you know that he’s really funny as well as an excellent song writer. I really loved how much he told stories and joked around during his set at Merriweather. Last night he was pretty much like we’ve got work to do (I mean he literally said that when his wife, Amanda Shires, who is sometimes part of his band started talking about it being the anniversary of him getting sober), let’s get down to business and play these people some music.

It was still a great show though. I love the music to deepest depths of my heart and soul. He has some pretty great fans too, which I cannot say for many of the artists I see. People who get Jason Isbell’s music like me are rabid about it. I remember listening to an All Songs Considered year end wrap up a few years ago and having Ann Powers put Jason Isbell on her best of list and Bob Boilen responding I don’t get it. I have seen him play and it’s done nothing for me, but I’ve looked at the crowd around me and they have this sort of rapture on their faces. Bob Boilen may not get it, but I do and that rapture is me.


Moody Guitar Rock January 24, 2018

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love — dwhren @ 7:54 am

It’s been awhile since I’ve written a post about music that no one is going to read. I’ve been thinking about this one for awhile and am finally mustering up enough energy to write it. This time I’m talking about some recent(ish) songs featuring moody guitar rock. I love the sort of gloomy sounds being created in these songs.

Lo Moon was my new band obsession at the end of 2017. I love every song they have available on Spotify (all 4 of them). I can’t wait until their full album comes out on February 23. I’m still super bummed that I missed the Live Lunch concert they did at WTMD towards the end of last year. I was fully planning on taking a long lunch and going up for it, but then I had to be manager in charge for literally those few hours so I couldn’t leave the building. Hopefully they make it back to Baltimore for a full on concert some time soon.


The War on Drugs put out one of my favorite albums of 2017. They are nothing but good for moody guitar rock. I mean in some respects a lot of their songs sound very similar, but I’m here for that sound so I don’t care.

I’m fudging a bit with the last one because while Nathanial Rateliff and the Night Sweats are guitar rock you can’t generally consider them very moody. I feel like the first single off their forthcoming new album takes a turn from the completely jaunty sounds of their first album to something slightly moodier in its undertones. I’m really liking it.


2017 Playlist January 3, 2018

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:28 am

In 2016 I made a song a day playlist of songs from any time that happened to strike me on any particular day. I didn’t always remember to do it, I had a hard time figuring out a new song for each day, and only wound up with 363 songs so I missed a few days. I decided that was less enjoyable than I hoped it would be and I’d probably wind up with a lot of the same songs if I did it again, so I went with a different strategy for 2017.

This year I made a playlist of songs released in 2017 that I particularly liked. I didn’t always remember to add to it on a regular basis so there was a bit of me rushing to add songs I liked towards the end of the year. I did like this approach though. I relistened to the playlist the other day and it seemed like a nice encapsulation of the year in song to me. Granted there are a number of pop songs on it that I added early-ish in the year that I am extremely tired of at this point, but a little further removed it will be fun to see what songs I was listening to in 2017. I’m going to try and do this again for 2018 too just hopefully a little bit more regularly throughout the year.



2017 Tea Advent Calendar December 31, 2017

Filed under: Simple Pleasures — dwhren @ 9:51 am

I enjoyed my tea advent calendar from David’s Teas last year, so I decided to get one again this year. I cheated this year and looked up the flavors that came in it to make sure there weren’t a lot of pu’reh teas, which I discovered I did not like last year. There weren’t, so I decided game on. People seemed to enjoy my thoughts on my tea advent calendar from last year, so I thought I would keep track again this year.

Day 1 – Let It Snow

This was a green tea with lots of fruit and spices. It was good, but sweeter than I prefer my tea to be. The candied pineapple, stevia, and white chocolate made it very sweet and overpowered the green tea itself. I was happy to realize that what I thought were raisins when I opened the tea turned out to be black currants instead. I looked at the ingredient list because I didn’t taste an garbage raisin flavor in the tea. Down with raisins.

Day 2 – Chocolate Macaroon

This was a black tea with chocolate and coconut flavors. I made this running on the door to catch a train, and I’m not sure I steeped it long enough as it tasted kind of weak. I’ll have to see what I think of it when I finish it off at a later date.

Day 3 – Strawberry Rhubarb Parfait

This was a fruit infusion with a bunch of fruits and nuts. It was pretty tasty. Though in general I prefer my tea to have actual tea leaves in it.

Day 4 – Organic Silk Dragon Jasmine

This was a jasmine flavored green tea. It was a pretty standard tasting green tea. I enjoyed it.

Day 5 – Glitter and Gold

This was a black tea with lemon peel and cloves and cute little gold sugar gold stars. It was very tasty. I’m a fan of spiced black teas and this one fit the bill nicely.

Day 6 – Organic North African Mint

This was a green tea flavored with mint, but ginger, cardamom, licorice root, fennel, cloves, and black pepper. I am not usually a big fan of mint, but I think all these other flavors helped round it out nicely because I liked this way more than I thought I would. I don’t much care for the licorice or fennel flavors either so apparently putting multiple flavors I don’t like very much all together creates a flavor I do like?

Day 7 – Organic Saigon Chai

I’ve already said black spiced teas are my favorite. That stands for this tea too.

Day 8 – Buddha Blend

This is a mix of green and white teas flavored with hibiscus. It was a really lovely fruity tea. I think it would also make an excellent iced tea.

Day 9 – Forever Nuts

This is the first tea that I recall being a repeat from last year’s calendar. It’s a fruit and nut infusion with apples and almonds flavored with cinnamon. It sort of tastes like drinking a red hot. I do not mind.

Day 10 – Walnut Orange Scone

This was a white tea with walnuts and orange. It mostly tasted liked oranges. I liked it because orange flavored teas are my second favorite after spiced black teas.

Day 11 – Alpine Punch

This is a rooibos tea with coconut, almonds, and a bunch of spices. It didn’t really taste much like coconut to me, but I found it to be a very tasty tea.

Day 12 – Coffee Pu’reh

I skipped drinking day 12’s tea. I do not like coffee, and in doing this advent calendar last year I also discovered that I am not much of a fan of pu’reh teas either. I don’t think putting them together was going to create any kind of winning combination for me, so I decided to give it a pass and not torture myself.

Day 13 – Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai

I thought I would really like this tea. I like chais and I like rooibos, but there something I did not like about it. There was some kind of aftertaste that I did not care for.

Day 14 – Lemon Pound Cake

This tea actually really tasted like drinking a piece of lemon pound cake. It was really tasty, but it’s not something I would make an every day tea. More of a special once in a while tea.

Day 15 – Raspberry Cream Pie

This tea tasted like drinking a piece of raspberry cream pie. Just kidding. I have no idea what a piece of raspberry cream pie tastes like. It did taste like raspberries though. Fruity teas are not my favorite. I didn’t hate it, but it’s definitely not something I would buy for myself.

Day 16 – Sleigh Ride

This was a repeat tea from last year. My review last year was “Another fruit infusion. This one had lots of fruit in it, but one of those fruits was raisins and that’s all I could taste. Why would you put raisins in tea? Why would you put raisins in anything?” I stand by that statement.

Day 17 – Caramel Shortbread

This tasted nothing like caramel shortbread. It didn’t really have much flavor at all. It was mostly like drinking sweet hot water. Thumbs down.

Day 18 – Organic Cream of Earl Grey

Earl Grey is one of my favorite tea flavors, so I was looking forward to this tea. I don’t know what the cream part is based on since the ingredient list was only black tea, marigolds, and cornflowers. I just looked at the David’s Tea description and it claims that vanilla gives it a creamy taste. I thought it gave it an off taste. I’m not sure if it tasted gross to me because it didn’t taste like Earl Grey to me at all or if there was something not right about this tea. At any rate I took 2 sips and then dumped it. 0 stars would not drink again.

Day 19 – Organic the Spice is Right

A green tea flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and orange peel. I’m not sure I could distinguish it from any other spiced tea, but it was tasty.

Day 20 – Carrot Cupcake

Did this taste like a carrot cupcake? It did not. Did I like it? Yes, I did.

Day 21 – Candy Cane Crush

A black tea with white chocolate and peppermint candy in it. This was okay. I don’t love mint, so this was never going to be my favorite, but I will drink the rest of it.

Day 22 – Hot Chocolate

Actually it turns out hot chocolate was really day 21 and candy cane crush was day 22, but I don’t know how calendars work and drank the candy cane crush a day early so I switched them around. Hot chocolate was a repeat from last year. It’s a black tea with chocolate in it. I’d rather drink plain black tea or actual hot chocolate. The watered down chocolate flavor of this isn’t great.

Day 23 – White Cranberry Bark

This was a tasty tea, though the cranberry did leave a tart flavor in my mouth

Day 24 – Santa’s Secret

Turns out Santa’s secret is that I didn’t drink this tea until December 30. We were out of town on the 24th and I thought it would be a little ridiculous to fly with this tea across the country. It’s another black tea with peppermint in it. It’s a nice tea to end the year with.