More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

NYC Weekends December 3, 2017

Filed under: Family,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 5:39 pm

I spent the last two weekends in New York City. As we often do we went up to the city for Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law’s family. The day after Thanksgiving we did a number of things around the city. We started off by visiting the Intrepid museum, which was my niece’s vote for what to do. We decided she made a good choice because the weather was actually pretty nice, but the museum wasn’t overly crowded.

As a perk from his company my husband gets into a number of New York museums for free along with a guest. This is the first time we’ve really gotten to put that into practice, since a lot of times I go up to New York without him and can’t take advantage of his discounts, or we’re up there with his family and aren’t going to the places where he gets a discount. He got the two of us into the Intrepid for free.

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I feel like we spent a decent amount of time there, but with two six year olds we didn’t really spend much time looking at anything and we certainly didn’t have to the chance to really stop and read anything. This was a good for a first pass, but some day I’ll probably go back and actually spend time looking at and reading the exhibits.

After the Intrepid we took the twins bowling for the first time. With all the back issues I’ve had over the past year I decided to sit out doing any bowling myself because I didn’t want to screw it up any more than it already is. I decided tossing heavy balls around was not the best idea. The kids did pretty good for their first time. My nephew even managed to get a strike in which the ball didn’t even bounce off of the bumpers on the way down the lane.

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Paul giving our nephew some sage bowling advice.

Friday night Paul and I headed out on our own. We ate dinner at Chai Thai. I’d eaten there with a friend before, and knew Paul would like it so I decided that would be a good place for us to grab dinner before our show. After that we had time to kill so we wound up walking over the Schmakery’s for cookies.

Our show this trip was The Band’s Visit. I had been waffling on what to see because I wasn’t super excited about anything, and there were several things that were possibilities but hadn’t been reviewed yet because they were just in previews. This show got a rave review in the New York Times when it opened a few weeks before Thanksgiving, so I finally decided on it. By that time tickets were few and far between, so Paul and I actually didn’t sit together. We sat in mirror image seats on the right and left sides of the theatre.

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I’m not actually sure how I felt about the show. I think Paul liked it more than I did. I know the New York Times reviewer definitely liked it more than I did. I didn’t dislike it, but I also didn’t love it. Even weeks later I’m trying to even figure out how to describe it. It’s a very sedate musical about an Egyptian Police Band that winds up accidentally stuck in a small town in Israel overnight. The experiences the band and the townspeople share that night seemingly both affect their lives while changing nothing about them.

Saturday before we headed home we took advantage of Paul’s work discount again and went to the New York Historical Society museum. I’m definitely glad we got into this one for free because I didn’t see anything aside from the children’s area in the basement.

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My niece’s favorite part of the museum was reshelving all the books in the kids’ part of the museum. A future librarian in the making perhaps?

I headed back to New York again a week later just for a day trip to meet up with my sister. She just moved to New Jersey, and while she’s waiting for the rest of her family to join her, she asked if I wanted to meet up with her to see The Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular. As many shows as I’ve seen in New York, I’ve never been to the Rockettes so I said sure.

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We had lunch at Brasserie Ruhlman down the street from Radio City Music Hall. The food was really good, but it was definitely a splurge as it was quite pricy. I don’t know if they’ve added new security to Radio City Music Hall since I’ve never been before, but I suspect that may have been the case and they didn’t anticipate how much it was going to slow down people getting in. They do 4 shows on the weekends and there is definitely not enough time in between them to turn the theatre over. We had tickets to the 2 pm show and after 45 minutes in line just barely made our seats right as the lights were going down. There were still a ton of people in line behind us, which was annoying because for the first part of the show you still had lots of people blocking your view as they found and got into their seats. I would have been even more annoyed had we had been one of the people who didn’t get inside before the show started. They definitely need to space the shows out another 30 minutes.

I can now say I’ve seen the Rockettes. I enjoyed it well enough, but I don’t think I probably ever need to see the show again. I mean if my nieces or nephew wanted me to go with them, I would. It’s definitely aimed at kids, but as an adult without kids I see no reason to go again.

After the show we just wandered around the city. Since we were right there and it was almost unavoidable we saw the tree in Rockefeller Center, which is something I once vowed I would never do again. Luckily this time it was a much less terrifying experience. The first time I went to New York with Paul after we started dating it was this same exact weekend, which is the first weekend the tree was lit. The crowds were insane and I got smashed in between so many people I literally got lifted up off the ground and was being carried along by the crowd. I had no control and had I fallen I would have been trampled. This year we were there before dark, so I suspect it was slightly less crowded than it might have been a couple hours later. At any rate, it wasn’t nearly as crowded, and I got to see the tree without thinking I might die.

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We did give up on walking down Fifth Avenue though because it was just too stupidly crowded full of people. Same with the Christmas Market in Bryant Park. We sort of looked at the Macy’s windows from a distance over the heads of the crowds of people. So basically we sort of did all the touristy Christmas things that the movies and tv make you think are so great, but are really terrible because they are way too crowded.

The weather was pretty good for this time of year though, and it was a pleasant day to walk around the city and catch up with my sister. It will be really nice to have her and her family so close by so that I’ll be able to see them more than the once, maybe twice a year I normally did when they were all the way out in Arizona.

 

Friendsgiving November 20, 2017

Filed under: Food,Friends,Life — dwhren @ 8:31 am

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The food is delicious and feels special because it’s really the only time of year that you eat it. There’s no pressure for figuring out gifts like there is at Christmas. Instead it’s a time to give thanks for all the things we already have.

One of the things I’m very thankful for is my friends. And one of the other great things about Thanksgiving is that it does lend itself to large gatherings of friends over a delicious Thanksgiving meal. I’ve participated in these Friendsgivings in various forms. Sometimes it’s like this year getting together with friends I don’t always get to see that often anymore over a delicious meal prior to the holiday. Sometimes it’s gathering together a group of Thanksgiving orphans who aren’t spending the holiday with their families on the actual holiday to share a Thanksgiving dinner, or gathering together with friends and having a potluck dinner with everyone’s Thanksgiving leftovers.

It’s always fun to see all the variations on the standard Thanksgiving food recipes that people have. Also there are always the random things people have that for some reason whether cultural or family tradition always show up on their Thanksgiving table. I’m still not ever eating that sauerkraut weirdo Marylanders think is Thanksgiving food though.

This year I had the pleasure of attending three different Friendsgiving meals over the last few weeks leading up to the holiday. They were all wonderful gatherings with friends, some of whom I definitely don’t get to see nearly enough anymore. I loved getting the chance to catch up on each other’s lives, share food, great conversation and laughter, and remember that these are all the things I’m thankful for. It’s been hard to focus on the good things this year, so it was nice to have some great reminders that there are still lots of simple good things in this world.

 

The One Off November 5, 2017

Filed under: Blogs,Random — dwhren @ 8:41 am

For years, every time I had something I wanted to write about that did not fit the theme of this blog, which is dedicated to talking about things that make me happy, I thought about starting another blog where I could talk about non-happy things. I never did it because I wanted to try and stay positive so didn’t want to open up a space for negativity which tends to be more my mindset anyway.

Then 2016 and 2017 happened. Over the past 2 years my ability to find things to write about in this space has greatly declined. I don’t feel happy most of the time. I just feel beat down, and I know I am not alone in that. That’s not to say that nothing makes me happy, but even if they do they are overshadowed by all the terrible or I just don’t have the energy to write about them.

This week I again felt the urge to write about something weighing on my heart that decidedly does not belong in this space, so I finally bit the bullet and started a third blog (my other one is my book reviews blog, which I am also terrifyingly behind on). The One Off is now up with my first post, Elegy for Baltimore. I don’t plan on writing there a lot, but now I finally have a space to talk about the not-so-great things too.

 

Happy 9th Anniversary to My Husband October 18, 2017

Filed under: Family,Life — dwhren @ 7:52 am

Nine years ago today I made one of the best decisions of my life and said, I do to my husband Paul. I am grateful every day to have him in my life, and not just because he cooks dinner and does the laundry. That certainly doesn’t hurt though. I love how he makes me smile, and how we share the same clever sense of humor that may amuse only us. I appreciate that he puts up with me and lets me drag him to tons of concerts he doesn’t care about because he knows that I love them. He’s the best husband I could ask for and the perfect mate for me.

Unfortunately, due to a family emergency we aren’t spending our anniversary together this year, but I raise my glass to our nine years of marriage and look forward to celebrating many more in the future. Cheers!

 

Wren0262

 

Charm Kitty Cafe October 15, 2017

Filed under: Baltimore,Cats — dwhren @ 8:16 pm

Last night I went with two friends to check out Charm Kitty Cafe, the new cat cafe, that just opened in Baltimore a couple of weeks ago. Perhaps the best thing about it is the name. If you’re not aware, one of Baltimore’s nicknames is Charm City, so I’m a huge fan of the clever play on that to call the place Charm Kitty Cafe. I’ve never been to any other cat cafes so I don’t know if the way this one works is comparable to others. It’s not so much of a cafe as a place to go hang out with some cats. You can get a cookie or a cup of coffee, green tea, or hot chocolate, but that’s it.

You have to make a reservation to go. It’s $10 on weekdays or $12 on weekends for 70 minutes with the cats. They get the cats from the local SPCA, so all the cats are 100% adoptable. Most of them were super sweet either letting you play with them or pet them a lot. There were two that were not really interested in anyone at least by the time we were there, which was the last session of the day.

My only complaints were that they didn’t have enough toys that you could actively engage the cats with and the kids. There were plenty of toys around that were more like things that cats would chase on their own like the little toy mice or balls, but there was only one dangly feather thing for humans to really use with the cats. That seems very short-sighted. Also having kids there was not great. They allow kids over the age of seven. There was one family with 2 while we were there. They were probably both under 10 years old. It’s a nice treat for them because apparently their father is allergic so they can’t have pets of their own, but also they were kids so they were doing what kids do with animals. They were chasing them around and being more aggressive than the cats really liked, thus making it less than ideal for everyone else there trying to interact with the cats. They left from the session early, so we did happily get some time with things being more chill.

It’s not somewhere I’d probably go on a super frequent basis, especially since I have a sweet, adorable cat at home, but I would definitely go back again at some point.

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Tim McGraw and Faith Hill Concert at Capital One Arena October 14, 2017

Filed under: Concerts,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 1:34 pm

A year ago tickets went on sale for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill’s Soul 2 Soul tour at what was then Verizon Center. It was so long ago the arena even changed names since I bought the tickets. I was super excited to finally get to see them in concert and together. I’ve been a fan since they both popped into the country scene in the mid-90s. In the early years of their touring I was a poor college student, then a poor grad student so I didn’t go to many concerts. Thus I missed out on seeing them during that hey dey. Then Faith Hill pretty much quit the music business for the most part to raise their kids. I get it, but if I had to have chosen one of them to stop making music for a couple of decades I would have gone the other way around.

Even though Tim McGraw has been around this whole time I haven’t loved any of his music as much as I loved his first few albums, so I never felt compelled to go see him by himself in the past 15 years. Plus I feel like I have never seen him have a Baltimore date in all that time, and that his DC dates have always been at Jiffy Lube Live. An ex-boyfriend took me to a Peter Gabriel concert there for my birthday one year, and while the concert was good I did not care for the venue or the fact that it’s ridiculous to get in and out of. There has yet to be a concert there that I’ve wanted to see enough to go back.

They opened the show covering the Aretha Franklin and George Michael hot hit, “I Knew You Were Waiting”. I adore that song. It really deserves a blog post of its own at some point.  Honestly that probably wound up being my favorite bit of the concert. After that they took turns sing songs with each other on stage with a couple of other duets thrown in between. Then they each performed a short set of their own songs before coming back together to sing “It’s Your Love” as the final song of the regular part of the show. It was backed by a lot of pictures of their family from over the years, which was cute.

For the encore they each sang one song while walking through part of the audience. Faith was not super great at being able to interact with the audience while continuing to sing. That happened a few times from the stage, but a lot during that song. They finished with a final duet together alone on stage.

For something called the Soul 2 Soul tour, it unfortunately felt a little soulless to me. Part of it is that arena shows in general just don’t do a whole lot for me. It’s kind of weird because you would think that as someone who really likes theatre that I would like the theatricality that goes into arena shows, but I just don’t. I like my live music to feel at least a little unscripted. This wasn’t at all. I was kind of surprised that they didn’t incorporate their new single that they just released on their anniversary, but the show is highly scripted, so they didn’t.

I also felt like the stage design was really weird. It sort of had two wings coming out on the sides of it where each of them stood to sing for the most part. I guess it maximizes the amount of the audience you’re singing to, but with them being so far apart even when they were sharing the stage it felt like they weren’t even part of the same show.

I’m still glad I went, but I can’t say that it fully lived up to my expectations. Moreso it was a reminder of why I tend to shy away from arena shows for the most part.

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Girls’ Weekend in the Poconos October 3, 2017

Filed under: Friends,Life,Travel — dwhren @ 8:47 pm

This past weekend I headed to the Poconos with a couple of friends for a girls’ weekend. We used to go on these pretty much every year, but thanks to other life things like babies and weddings and houses, it’s been a few years. We decided to try and get back in the groove this fall. We settled on renting a house in the Poconos for a long weekend. Sadly one of my friends had to back out last minute to go to a funeral instead. We definitely missed her, but now we have a good excuse not to wait a whole year to plan something else.

We headed up on Friday and somehow managed to turn a 4 hour drive into 7 hours. We stopped for lunch outside of Lancaster at the Oregon Dairy farm. They have a restaurant, gift shop, and market there. I was thinking the market would be more like an Amish market than the grocery store it really was, but the restaurant was totally what I was hoping for. I had a delicious grilled turkey sandwich with cranberry relish on a pretzel roll. Then since we were at a dairy farm we all decided we needed ice cream for dessert. The amount of ice cream they gave us was absurd. I only ordered a single scoop and couldn’t finish it. My friends both ordered two scoops so they could get more than one flavor. I’m pretty sure they each had at least a pint of ice cream. It too was really good. We spent almost two hours at our lunch stop between eating and getting some stuff in the market. We tacked on another hour along the way between stopping for coffee and adding in a more substantive grocery stop near our destination.

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We rented a place on Airbnb located in the Pocono Ranchlands development near Bushkill Falls. The development has things like pools and horseback riding you can do, but it was obviously the wrong time of year for swimming and I can’t imagine any of us heading out on horseback. We pretty much found stuff to do elsewhere. Even though mileage wise it seemed like it was pretty remote from anything because all the roads between it and civilization are pretty much light and stop sign free it didn’t really take that long to get to things to do.

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I went for a walk by myself every morning around the neighborhood. I saw lots of deer. Most of them ran away as soon as they saw me, but these guys just stood there and stared at me.

After our large, late lunch we decided we didn’t really need dinner so grazed on some cheese, crackers, and charcuterie instead. The house had a fire pit in the back yard so we spent the rest of the evening sitting around the fire and of course making some s’mores for dessert.

The house we stayed in was nice. It had comfortable beds, nice furniture, and was well decorated, but we decided that the people who owned it must never cook when they go there because the kitchen was highly lacking in any decent cooking implements. Even attempting to make pancakes, french toast, bacon, and eggs for our two breakfasts was quite a feat with the paltry amount of cookware. We all said we would stay at the house again, but would definitely bring some of our own pots, pans, and cooking utensils.

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I don’t generally make bacon for myself at home, so I was happy to get to try out the trick for cooking bacon Michael Ruhlman shared while he made gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches with Laura Lippman at the Baltimore Book Festival. You wouldn’t think, but starting off cooking the bacon with just enough water to cover it poured on top makes for some really excellent bacon. It cooks in the water first and then once the water boils off it gets nice and crispy. I definitely recommend this method of cooking bacon. Who knew?

Saturday morning we went to Bushkill Falls. There are lots of waterfalls in the area. I have no idea how the others compare, but Bushkill Falls is definitely the most commercialized. You have to pay a decent amount of money to get in. There’s also some tiny little shops and museums on the site as well as campgrounds. We weren’t looking for any kind of strenous hike though, and this fit the bill. There are multiple trails, but the one aimed at just your typical tourist is completely covered in a wooden boardwalk and stairs. It kind of felt like hiking in a giant tree house.

After that I wanted to go to some kitschy store called the Country Kettle that I had seen advertised when looking for stuff to do in the Poconos. It’s just a really ridiculous store full of kitsch, but also had a ton of bulk candy so we all indulged ourselves in some of that.

We headed into downtown Stroudsburg and walked around and then had lunch a cute little cafe/ice cream shop that based on the sign inside seemed to have once been a hardware store. I felt like I was in Gilmore Girls. This was obviously the trip of the best sandwiches because I had another really excellent sandwich. It was a chicken with arugula, gouda, and fig jam on a croissant.

Our final activity of the day was heading to the outlet mall in Tannersville. Of the three of us I definitely made out the best. I bought a new pair of shorts for the gym, 2 skirts, socks, yoga pants, jeans, a pair of gray pants, and a couple of sets of Pyrex bowls and containers. Not a bad haul at all and even better that most of it was discounted.

Our final stop of the day before heading back to the house was for dinner. One of the last places to stop before you entered the land of nothing was a little Italian restaurant/tiki bar (yes you read that right). My friend and her husband are into tiki, so rather than try and figure out somewhere else to eat I suggested we just stop there for dinner and then if we wanted we could hit up the tiki bar after. We also figured that even if it wasn’t the best Italian food, most Italian food winds up at least being serviceable. The food was actually pretty good though. I didn’t have high hopes based on the atmosphere and the sad salad the meal started with, but the pasta was actually tasty. I’m still a little sad that I ordered stupidly and just said I’d have the exact same thing my friend ordered. I too wanted the same salad and stuffed shells, but I wanted mine with meatballs not Italian sausage. I was like hey they didn’t bring me the right order until I stopped and realized I never actually placed my own order. That’ll learn me not to pay attention to what I’m copycat ordering. We were all really tired, so we didn’t wind up sticking around for the tiki bar this time. We headed back to the house and played Uno, Phase 10, and Skip-bo instead.

Sunday we pretty much just got up, made breakfast, packed up, and hit the road. We managed to get back to Baltimore in a timely fashion this time with just a stop for a pizza lunch somewhere in some small town in Pennsylvania that from what little I saw of it must be known for its antiques.

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It was a really fun weekend away. I’m happy to have girls’ weekend back in my life. Hopefully we can make it a regular thing again in years to come.