Summer Movie Diary

My husband has been traveling a lot the last few weeks, so I’ve been watching more movies than I usually do to keep myself entertained while he’s been gone. We watch most TV shows together so I am on hold with most of the things I watch. I often have a show I’m binge watching that he doesn’t care about, but I don’t even have one of those right now since I grew bored with Pretty Little Liars and haven’t found anything else that piques my interest to watch at the moment. So while I’m waiting for him to get back to catch up on our TV I’ve been watching movies instead. Plus I’ve watched a few other movies while traveling. Here’s my thoughts.

Paddington 2

I remember when this movie came out I was super skeptical of all the rave reviews it was getting. I think at one point it had a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I was like how can this movie possibly be that good. I’m completely willing to admit that my skepticism was misplaced because this movie is really endearing. I watched the first one in preparation for watching this one, and it was fine but Paddington 2 is really good. It’s funny and sweet and heartbreaking and heartwarming. It’s all the feelings. With so much terribleness in the world, this movie is a great little escape.

Marshall

We wound up watching this movie in a hotel room when we were in upstate New York and there was nothing else on. It’s not something I would have watched otherwise. It covers the work of Thurgood Marshall on one case during his early career as a lawyer. It was entertaining, but it’s not anything earth shattering or something I would say you need to rush out to see, but if you happen upon it it’s not a bad use of 2 hours.

The Kissing Booth

Netflix is bringing back the romantic comedy and I am here for it. I loved this little movie. It’s very reminiscent of 90s teen rom-coms, which I loved and sorely miss. Elle and Lee have been best friends since the day they were born. Now that they’re in high school Elle has developed a crush on Lee’s bad boy older brother Noah. Lee sensing something reminds Elle about one of the long ago rules they made about their friendship that included no dating each other’s relatives. But Elle continues to find herself falling for Noah despite Lee’s protests and her own better judgment. Can she keep Lee as a friend while dating Noah? If you like me love romantic comedies, run don’t walk to watch this on Netflix. I promise you won’t be sorry.

Like Father

Like Father is another Netflix film. It’s not a rom-com and I’m not exactly sure what genre I would place it in. It definitely felt more made for TV movie than The Kissing Booth did though. It stars Kristen Bell as a workaholic who is left at the alter. She discovers that the father, played by Kelsey Grammer, who left her as a small child has shown up to the wedding uninvited and winds up getting drunk with him and then dragging him on her honeymoon cruise where they mend their relationship and Kristen Bell’s character learns to not be like her father was. I could have done with 100% less Seth Rogen, but luckily he’s a fairly minor character. There were also some plot points I would have written differently that I think would have made more sense but no one asked me. It’s an okay movie. A fine watch for a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Josie and the Pussycats

I vaguely remember this being a movie when it came out. I was definitely barely going to the movies back then when I was in grad school and working 2 jobs, but if I recall correctly it wasn’t around long enough for me to have a chance anyway. I remember it being fairly well maligned at the time, but it seems to have taken on sort of a cult classic status at this point. I know a number of people who really like it for whatever reason. I definitely missed whatever boat they are sailing on because from where I’m sitting this movie deserves probably almost all the scorn heaped on it. It was not good. I’m not much one for camp, so maybe that’s where people are coming from but I suspect if you’re not already on board with this movie there is no need for you to watch it at this point.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

I never planned on going to see this movie in the theater. I figured if I ever saw it at all it would be at some point after it was released on DVD or streaming. The local movie critic on the Saturday morning news gave it a good review, which made me more inclined to see it but I still didn’t plan on going out of my way to see it. Then one of the movie apps I’ve used to buy tickets through offered me a free ticket to see it. I definitely wanted to see it enough to take advantage of a free ticket, and I’m really glad I did. It was a great movie. It was funny and entertaining. I enjoyed the friendship between Mila Kunis’ and Kate McKinnon’s characters and the plot kept things moving. It was definitely a great summer flick. My only quibble was that I totally did not buy Mila Kunis and Justin Theroux as lovers. They had exactly zero chemistry. He seemed more like her father than her boyfriend, which their large age gap didn’t help. I didn’t buy that they were in love or even that they were ever in any sort of relationship in the scenes that he shows back up in. That’s a very small part of the movie though, so it didn’t detract too much. If you’re looking for a fun diversion at the movies I highly recommend this one.

Eighth Grade

The movie basically follows a girl in her final days of eighth grade. Eighth grade is a super awkward age to begin with and this girl is also very socially awkward so there’s just a lot of awkward. I’ve used that word about a dozen times already, so probably you get it. It made me really glad that I never have to be in eighth grade again and that I grew up before social media was a thing. I thought I would like this movie more than I did in reality. It’s probably because it’s meant to be super awkward which makes for a less enjoyable viewing experience. Also I think I over identified with the character to some degree. I definitely have never been as socially inept as she is, but I too am super shy and quiet and was probably reliving some of my own painful experiences through her. So you know, if you want to relive some of the less pleasant parts of being a teenager this movie is for you.

The Greatest Showman

Given my love of musical theatre I have no idea what made me think I wouldn’t care for this movie when it came out. I’ve had a billion people since then tell me I would love it, but I just never got around to watching it until now. And I should listen to people because I did love it. The story itself about P.T. Barnum is kind of meh, but the musical numbers are fantastic and really make the movie. It really made me jones to get to some live musical theatre. Luckily it won’t be too much longer until our season tickets to the touring Broadway shows start because I am not inspired to go see anything that’s new on Broadway right now. It’s a whole bunch of jukebox musicals and musicals based on movies, none of which I care to see. If they ever turn this movie into a Broadway show, which I feel is inevitable, I would totally go see it.

Newport Folk Festival 2018

This past weekend was our annual trip to Rhode Island for the Newport Folk Festival. It is by far always my favorite weekend of the year and this year was no exception. I know no one really cares to read a run down of every act I saw over the three days of the festival so I’m always trying to figure out a good way to write a review of it. This year I’ve decided to frame it around the Newport Folk Festival mantra shared by Jay Sweet, the festival’s Executive Producer, every morning before the gates opened:

Be Present
Be Kind
Be Open
Be Together

It’s probably a pretty good mantra for life not just for the folk festival.

Be Present

Every year I’ve tried to be more and more present at the festival. I didn’t spend hardly any time on my phone, mostly just using it to keep track of the last minute set announcements. I think I took like 3 photos the entire weekend. I’m not going to lie and say everyone was as consistently disengaged from their phones, but there was definitely a lot fewer people taking photos and videos than I usually see at concerts. It was nice not to be constantly trying to see things through someone else’s phone screen. It allowed me to really be engaged with the music and have experiences like being moved to tears of joy listening to Jenny Lewis play my favorite song of hers, “She’s Not Me”.

I also tried to be present in the sets I was at and not worry about what I was missing on some other stage. Until I can figure out how to clone myself for the festival there are always going to be known conflicts as well as hearing about special moments afterwards that I wish I had been there to witness. This year I just tried to experience and enjoy the moments I was there for and not be disappointed about the things I wasn’t.

Be Kind

The crowds at the Newport Folk Festival are the kindest I’ve ever experienced. Usually you get large crowds and everyone is just out for themselves, but I have never experienced that at Newport. I had people make sure that they weren’t going to block my view on more than one occasion before they moved in front of me. I watched people offer their blanket in the shade to a family with a baby when they left to go to another stage. I saw people returning things that people dropped. And there were obviously so many more examples as I saw an entire thread on Twitter of kindnesses big and small that people witnessed during the festival. There’s a reason why everyone talks about their “folk family” at Newport.

Be Open

I’ve always tried to make being open something I do at Newport. I always go in with a loose idea of who I want to listen to, but things always change. I always want to be open to where the day takes me. That meant staying for Caamp’s entire set because it was so good and missing out on most of Curtis Harding’s, who I had gone in really wanting to see. It meant giving Passenger a chance even though I only knew his one hit song, which I long ago grew tired of and discovering that he is a hilarious storyteller and great songwriter. It meant abandoning St. Vincent’s set, which I was sure I wanted to see going in because I’ve always heard great things and she canceled her most recent Baltimore date that I had tickets to. I realized there was no way it was going to make me has happy as I would be singing along to Jason Isbell’s songs for the third time in a week. It means dropping everything and running over to the Late July Family Tent when you hear Hiss Golden Messenger is going to be doing a set there. It means passing by the Newport Festivals Foundation tent and discovering Valerie June singing with a bunch of kids from local schools the foundation supports. The beauty of Newport is that wherever you wander you fill find something amazing and if you’re open to experiencing new things you will be greatly rewarded. Almost every year my favorite moments of the festival have come from things I originally didn’t have on my schedule.

Be Together

Togetherness is what Newport is all about. I don’t know any other festival where artists playing come together as much as they do at Newport. There is constant collaboration between artists playing the festival. There’s even an unofficial award, “the Jim James Award”, for the artist who sits in on the most sets over the weekend. This year that went to Brandi Carlile, who did have her own set on Sunday, but was there the entire weekend playing with seemingly everyone starting with singing “9 to 5” with Margo Price on Friday afternoon. Lucius who actually had their own set this year came in a close second and probably would have taken the crown again if they hadn’t had to leave for a gig on Sunday. They’ve showed up every year since their first whether they’ve had an official set or not. Hiss Golden Messenger also showed up a ton of places over the weekend. The Lone Bellow were only there on Sunday, but popped up numerous places throughout the day. I know I’m leaving out a ton of other collaborations, but this could go on forever.

And those are just the people who actually had official sets that sat in with others. There’s a whole other long list of people who just showed up to sit in on a song or two including John Prine with Margo Price, David Crosby with Jason Isbell, and all the people who came only for the closing set, “A Change is Going to Come” dedicated civil rights music including Mavis Staples, Chris Thile, and Leon Bridges all who I’m sad didn’t actually have their own sets to play during the weekend.

The Saturday headliner was unannounced. It turns out it was Mumford and Sons. People would have been a lot more excited about them a few years ago. They haven’t put out a new album in a while and the pop music fad they were riding high on has since passed them by. For several years Jay Sweet kept telling people to quit asking for Mumford and Sons because the festival is a small, non-profit and could never compete with the bigger festivals to get them. Their star has obviously fallen some such that Newport was able to get them, though to be affordable they still had to be unannounced due to radius clauses. I heard a lot of speculation about Paul Simon finally playing Newport before he retired (I was shocked to discover he never did) and a lot of people thinking it was going to be Neil Young for some reason. But Mumford and Sons truly made themselves worthy of the festival. Given all the things they have done to support musical collaboration like their Railroad Revival Tour, the Gentlemen of the Road shows they put on, and Marcus Mumford’s participation in the New Basement Tapes I always felt like they live by the Newport ethos and it was a shame they hadn’t played there. Their set was wonderful and exactly one that is the epitome of the Newport spirit. They had so many people out on stage to sing with them. They even took backstage and played back up to Maggie Rogers so she could sing her song “Alaska”. The best part of the set and my favorite part of the entire weekend was them bringing out Mavis Staples to sing “The Weight” with a whole bunch of other people including Brandi Carlile, Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers, and Hiss Golden Messenger. It may be one of my favorite Newport moments ever.

There’s also just the message of togetherness I felt like I heard throughout the weekend from many a stage. It’s a folk festival so it’s going to get political, but the overwhelming political message I heard this year was the need to bring people back together while still fighting the good fight. I left the festival feeling some hope for humanity for the first time in a long time. There were musical moments just perfectly made for bring people together. I had been waiting since the first time I heard it to sing Brandi Carlile’s “Hold Out Your Hand” with a Newport crowd and the moment did not disappoint. And the festival ended with a giant sing-a-long with a billion people on stage singing “Freedom Highway” fronted by the queen Mavis Staples. We’ll keep marching down freedom highway.

Jason Isbell at Wolf Trap

Tuesday night I went to see Jason Isbell at Wolf Trap as the second stop in my week of Jason Isbell in which I see him in concert 3 times in one week in 3 different states. As you know if you’ve been around here for any amount of time Wolf Trap is one of my favorite venues. I love sitting out on the lawn and picnicking there during shows. I put my husband in charge of buying these tickets and he bought us pavilion seats, which I was kind of annoyed at but turned out to be a good call because of the never ending torrents of rain that have been plaguing us for the past 5 days. I think the lawn people got lucky though because it might have sprinkled, but it never poured during the show though we definitely hit some downpours on both our drive there and back.

I am apparently doomed to only ever see Hiss Golden Messenger in rainy weather despite their music being the perfect warm summer outdoor concert music. I told my husband last night that the three times I’ve seen them I’ve been wearing my rain boots. They’re also playing at the Newport Folk Festival this coming weekend, so I hope that’s not an omen for rain. They had an unusually short opening set given that they were the only opening act. They only got 45 minutes, which limited what they had time to play. I was bummed they didn’t play “Saturday’s Song”, which is my favorite. Hopefully with a little bit longer at Newport they’ll get it in for me.

As soon as Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit came out on stage I was a little bit bummed to see that Amanda Shires wasn’t with them. She’s Jason’s wife and plays fiddle in his band sometimes when she’s not off doing her own thing. She has a new album coming out in a couple of weeks so I knew she would probably be off on our her own tour soon but figured since she was there Friday night and will be there at Newport since she has her own set there as well that she would still be around at this concert. There were a couple of songs that I think are forever doomed to be poorer without her there. “Cover Me Up” and “If We Were Vampires” will never have the same impact without Amanda there on stage with Jason singing to her. But even though she wasn’t there it was an amazing show and I enjoyed it even more than Friday’s show in Canandaigua.

Part of the reason this show was better was the sound. I have no idea who was in charge of the sound in Canandaigua, but it was terrible. The volume got cranked way up between Brandi Carlile’s set and Jason Isbell’s set for some reason to an uncomfortable level. Even with my earplugs in, which I always wear at every concert (save your hearing kids), the loudness wound up setting off my tinnitus for days. Also the sound mix seemed way off. The drums seemed over power everything else. I was almost a little reluctant to go last night knowing we would be close in the pavilion again because I didn’t want to traumatize my hearing again, especially so close to the last time. Last night was much better and made me realize even more how terrible the sound was at CMAC.

This was the fourth time I’ve seen Jason Isbell while he’s been touring his The Nashville Sound album so I  knew his set would probably be slightly different from Friday night, but figured it would mostly be the same with most of it coming from the new album. Turns out last night’s set was hugely different from Friday night’s, which was awesome for me. He didn’t play nearly as many songs from the new album as he has at the other shows I’ve been to on this tour. I theorized that the new album has a lot of fiddle from Amanda in it, so without her there he decided to go back to more of his older stuff. I have no idea if that’s true, but it was my best guess. He pulled out more from his Drive-By Trucker days than I’ve ever heard him play before and even several songs from his first three solo albums, which he rarely plays much from. He played a lot more from Southeastern than he has at any show I’ve been to recently including “Elephant” which I can’t hear anymore without thinking about this delightful video.

It was a really great show. Jason Isbell and Wolf Trap never disappoint so I should have known it would be wonderful night of music.

Finger Lakes Weekend

This past weekend my husband I went up to the Finger Lakes in upstate New York for a long weekend. It began what I’m calling my week of Jason Isbell, in which I see him in concert 3 times in one week in 3 different states. I had already bought tickets to see him at Wolf Trap in Virginia which is one of my favorite venues when it was announced he was going to co-headline two shows with my other favorite artist Brandi Carlile. How could I not go to that? So I asked my husband if he preferred to go to Canandaigua, NY or to Portland, ME. He choose Canandaigua and because he’s awesome didn’t even question me. The third and final show will be at our annual trip to the Newport Folk Festival next weekend as he was announced as the Friday night headliner long after I had bought either of these tickets.

We drove up on Friday and arrived in Canandaigua in just about enough time to grab an early dinner before heading to the concert. Brandi Carlile was up first. It turns out I’m very glad that my husband chose Canandaigua over Portland because I compared the setlists and we got an entirely different set than what has been her more standard setlist that she’s been playing on this tour and I’ve seen multiple times already. For whatever reason instead of having the whole backing band plus the string quartet that they’ve been traveling with on this tour, it was just Brandi and the Twins up there playing acoustic guitars. I’ve seen them do that before, but it’s always awesome. They still played a decent amount of stuff from the new album, but not the whole thing like they have been doing. It was interesting to see how they filled in the string parts with the piano. They also played some different older stuff than they’ve been playing at other recent shows I’ve been to. I’m sort of curious what the actual written setlist was because there was a couple of times she said she was making a decision to change and play something not on the set list. One of those times was probably my favorite parts of the evening in which they did a sing-a-long medley of John Denver songs, “Country Roads”, “Sunshine on My Shoulder”, and “Rocky Mountain High”. It was glorious.

Having also seen Jason Isbell twice since he’s been traveling around touring his most recent record over the past year I wasn’t sure different this set list would be either. It was of course a lot the same, but he definitely mixed it up on the older stuff. He of course played a lot of stuff from the new album, plus the same three songs that he seems to be playing from the Something More than Free album, which are probably my three favorite so I won’t complain. He mixed it up a bit more with stuff from Southeastern and before. I’ll be curious to see what if anything differs in the next two times I see him this week.

I’d never been to the Finger Lakes region before so I decided we should stick around and explore a little bit instead of heading home first thing on Saturday. We drove down Seneca Lake and stopped in a little park and stuck our feet in. Our ultimate destination was Corning. I wanted to go to the Corning Museum of Glass. It was a cool museum, though I wished they had more about the actual history of Corning glass itself. All the art, innovation, and other history exhibits were cool though. They also have live demonstrations so we got to see some glass blowing as well. I was very interested in the fact that there seemed to be a high Chinese tourist population that goes to the museum given that the demonstration had a Mandarin interpreter and the signs in the museum cafe had Chinese translations on them. I was terrified of the gift shop. I was so afraid I was going to knock into all the glass displays and break everything. I managed to snag a Christmas ornament and get out without breaking anything.

The Corning Museum of Glass had a joint ticket with the Rockwell Museum. I didn’t really look into what the Rockwell Museum was. I just wrongly assumed that it was a museum of Norman Rockwell’s works. Turns out it’s actually a museum based off of a collection of American art started by a family with the last name Rockwell. I’m not sorry we went. It just wasn’t what I thought I was going to.

Despite the forecast when I packed on Friday morning saying it was going to be sunny and in the low-80s every day while we were there, the weather completely changed while we were inside the glass museum. It go much colder in the mid-60s and started raining. I would have packed much differently had I known. The weather kind of put a damper on my desire to do much else. We did walk up and down Market Street in downtwon Corning, but didn’t look into doing anything else that day or Sunday before we left because the weather was so gross and most of what there would be to do would be outside.

We ate dinner at a place on Market Street called Sorge’s, which is an old school Italian restaurant, and it was delicious. It was probably the best Italian food I have eaten in a long time. I liked they had sort of build your own pasta plates in which you could choose your pasta from a few options, which you could add additional toppings to. I got spaghetti and added meatballs, mushrooms, and threw some melted mozzarella cheese on top for good measure. I was very pleased with my decision.

We headed back to Maryland after breakfast on Sunday early enough that we were able to swing by a friend’s 40th birthday party before going home so even though the weather put a damper on our New York activities it worked out so we could celebrate with a friend.

Sugarland at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Last night I went to Merriweather Post Pavilion to see Sugarland with Clare Bowen and Brandy Clark opening. It was a perfect summer night for an outdoor concert. Warm, but not humid. Just lovely. Beautiful summer nights with live music under the stars are one of my favorite things in the world and last night was an A+ all around.

It’s the first time I’ve been to Merriweather this season, so the first time I’ve seen some of the changes they made over the off-season. The most obvious one on the public side was the raising of the roof, which you can definitely tell. The higher roof makes the view from the lawn a lot better so that was a welcome change.

This tour is the return of Sugarland after a five year hiatus in which Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush went their separate ways for awhile. They finally put out a new album ahead of this tour, which as seems to be the practice now I got a free download of with the purchase of my concert ticket. I really like the new album a lot, so I was excited to hear them play some of their new music. Apparently they lost a lot of momentum during their break though because unlike when I saw them at Merriweather on their previous tour this one was pretty sadly attended. The pavilion was probably about 1/3 empty and the lawn probably close to 1/2 empty. I also joked that people didn’t come because there were too many ladies on stage since it was 2 female opening acts and a female fronted main act. Apparently country music, especially these days, is highly misogynistic. Women get like a 1/4 of the air play on country music radio as men, which they try to explain away as what the people want, but I’m pretty sure it’s just a self fulfilling loop in which women don’t get played, so people don’t know the music and thus don’t want it, and then don’t go to the concerts because they’re not hearing the music. Repeat.

I on the other hand am a much bigger fan of female country artists or female fronted bands. Aside from my OG country love Garth Brooks and the very earliest of Tim McGraw, I can’t think of a single male country artist whose albums I’ve bought or who I’ve gone to see in concert. I’m very happy that Merriweather snuck in as the last venue on this leg of Sugarland’s tour because apparently it was the last night for Clare Bowen and Brandy Clark as the openers. They pick up Frankie Ballard, who couldn’t care less about, for the back half.

Clare Bowen had possibly the shortest opening set I have ever seen. She only got about 20 minutes. In case you’re not aware, Clare Bowen is the actress who played Scarlett on the TV show Nashville. It turns out that I like the character of Scarlett O’Connor and the music she sings way more than I actually like Clare Bowen. I liked the one Nashville song that she sang, but I didn’t much care for the 4 songs she wrote along with her husband who backed her on guitar and sang with her.

Brandy Clark is someone who whenever I hear her music I think I really like her I should listen to her more and then never do for whatever reason. In some ways she felt a little like the odd woman out on this tour with Clare Bowen covered in glittered and wearing a flowy white princess gown and Jennifer Nettles wearing a sparkly body suit and sparkly fish net tights around which she wrapped various out coverings throughout the show. Meanwhile Brandy was dressed in all black pants and shirt. Her music feels a little more outlaw country and rock country than Clare Bowen or Sugarland. I really do like her. I just say all that because I think she would be awesome to see in a smaller venue with a crowd that was there to see her rather an audience who didn’t particularly seem to know who she was or care. In the right place her music seems like it would be a raucous good time, whereas everyone just sat through her set here. I still really enjoyed her music though.

Last time I saw Sugarland their stage set was much more elaborate than it is on this tour. There was still a lot more going on than in most of the shows I see, which I don’t super love actually. Even though I love actual theatre I don’t love theatrics in my concerts. It’s why I am not one for big stadium and arena shows for the most part because in order to make them even remotely enjoyable for the fans millions of miles away from the stage there has to be a lot of elaborate spectacle that often times just comes across as cold and distracting from the music for me. This concert wasn’t that, but I could have done without the music videos playing in the background of a bunch of the songs. I want to watch what the performers are doing not some prerecorded video that goes along with the song. That’s what YouTube is for.

Despite what I just said I thought it was a great concert. Jennifer Nettles is just such a fun presence on stage. She looks like she’s having so much fun and even though they don’t do a ton of audience engagement during their set her joy just draws you in. Also I just love the power of her voice. She’s a really great performer and I’m glad to have her back with Kristian in Sugarland. You would figure I would like her solo stuff too, but I just never connected with it. I don’t know what it is about the two of them together that makes the music so much more than when they’re apart but I’m really happy they’re back.

They played a handful of songs from their new album and a whole bunch of old stuff. It’s been awhile since I’ve just sat down and listened to my Sugarland albums. Aside from listening to the new album, I’ve mostly just heard whatever comes on the radio by them over the past few years. I realized last night that for the most part country radio plays my least favorite songs by them. I had kind of forgotten how much I love some of their other songs until I heard them again last night for the first time in a long time.

I always love when bands have fun with covers and remixes during shows. Sugarland did not disappoint. They, I think smartly, did some remixes with a couple of their newer songs which I think helps people who don’t know them yet engage with them. They ended “Lean It on Back”, which is my favorite song from the new album, mixing it with Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”. This also did a nice long remix break that included “We’ve Got the Funk”, “Billie Jean”, and “Express Yourself” among other songs I’m forgetting during the middle of “On a Roll”.

Probably my favorite part of the evening was their cover of Patty Griffin’s “Tony”, which is about a gay high school boy who commits suicide because of all the abuse he receives at school. They accompanied with stats about LGBTQ suicides and asking people to think about what their kids are hearing in their homes, their schools, and their churches. In the country music community this is such an important message and I’m happy for every little step country music seems to be taking in the right direction in this regard even though country music and the majority of country music fans have a long way to go. I actually found a professionally recorded version of this song that Sugarland posted on their YouTube channel. I encourage you to watch.

It was an absolutely perfect night and I’m so glad to have Sugarland back even though many of their fans seem to have moved on while they were gone. I’m still here.

Deep Creek Lake

Last weekend we spent a long weekend in Deep Creek Lake with some friends. They had stayed at the Lake Pointe Inn back in December and had a deal to return for 3 nights for the price of 2 and asked us to join them. It was an absolutely lovely weekend.

The Lake Pointe Inn is great and I highly recommend it as a place to stay if you’re looking for a romantic getaway or just a nice place to relax for a few days. I’m not generally a fan of American bed and breakfast places because it always seems like there’s something weird about the rooms or the bathrooms or the decor is way too froofy. And as an introvert I am not a fan of what too many times seems like forced breakfast at one big table with people you don’t know with no real choice as to what you’re being fed.

The Lake Pointe Inn was not like that at all. We stayed in the Buffalo Marsh room, which was quite spacious. It had a king bed, which I think all the rooms do, plus a nice sitting area. The bathroom was also quite large with a big jacuzzi tub, which it was way too hot to use, and a shower. I wish there were a few more surfaces to put stuff on in the bathroom though. They did have a thing with shelves above the toilet, but I kept being afraid I would knock all my stuff into the toilet because I’m talented like that.

room in an inn
Terrible picture of our room, the Buffalo Marsh room, in the Lake Pointe Inn

The breakfast was delicious. Every meal started with a cup of fruit and a little skillet of baked oats. Based on what my friends said they had more baked goods in the winter at breakfast, but I suspect the common items awaiting everyone were geared towards the vegans we heard were staying there. They did go out of their way to make sure there were options for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten free people without them having to make special requests so good on them. There were 7 options for breakfast every morning. I ordered the avocado toast every morning because it was really good, and I was trying to avoid the heavy carb laden breakfasts given the amount of food I was eating the rest of the day.

There were also freshly baked cookies plus another little snack of some sort set out at 5pm every evening. There were also jars with pretzels and biscotti you could get at any time. They even made homemade marshmallows to roast over the fire pit and make s’mores. You had access to coffee, tea, and fridges full of water, La Croix, and soda too. They even sent us off with a little big of homemade snack mix for the drive home when we checked out. Basically you’re not going to go hungry there.

If you just want to lounge around there are plenty of places to do that at least during the warm weather months. There is a lovely front porch looking out over the lake with rocking chairs on it. They also have little decks built for 2 around the property with Adirondack chairs and lounge chairs on them. It’s great if you want to be off somewhere by yourself or with just your companion. I also spent an afternoon reading in a hammock on the edge of the water. As I mentioned there was a fire pit out back that we sat around every night and mingled with some of the other guests.

person lying in hammock by lake
Enjoying the afternoon reading in the hammock with a view of Deep Creek Lake
patio by lake
View of the back patio of the inn from our room. The roof line cuts out the fire pit.

The inn is set back in Marsh Cove, which is a no wake zone so it’s nice and quiet and great for swimming or paddling around without worrying about getting run over by a speed boat. They have canoes, kayaks, and paddle boards you can borrow for free. There’s also a jet ski on the property that you have to pay to use. Every evening from 6-7 pm they also have a boat ride out onto the lake. It was great to actually get out in a real boat and check out more of the lake than what we could just see from the inn.

Even though the inn was lovely we did actually leave it to do other things each day. Thursday night we grabbed dinner at Mountain State Brewery. They have some great pizzas and we were able to sit out on the patio and enjoy the sunset.

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Sunset view from Mountain State Brewery

Friday we started off the day hiking at Swallow Falls and Herrington Manor State Park. Swallow Falls was great. I liked the trails and all the water falls were beautiful. With it having rained so much in the last few months there was a lot of water flowing. I didn’t care that much for Herrington Manor State Park at least for hiking. Our friends decided to stay at the swimming beach there. I unfortunately for a lake vacation was unable to swim as I had an ingrown toenail removed a few weeks ago and there are still open wounds on my toe. I decided it was not a good idea to expose those to lake water. At least I was finally able to put on closed toed shoes for the first time on this trip or hiking would have been an issue as well. The trails at Herrington Manor were kind of muddy and covered in grass which made me paranoid about ticks, so we started out on several trails and then sort of just walked around the road for awhile.

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We grabbed lunch in downtown Oakland before heading back to the inn. Friday night we ate dinner at Moonshadow. They had a live band playing. We unfortunately wound up sitting at a table directly in front of their speakers, so it was way too loud. The band was okay, but I was definitely ready to leave when we decided to head out and get some ice cream at Lakeside Creamery.

Saturday we started off the morning on the lake using the canoes and kayaks. Unfortunately while we were out on the lake my husband got a call about a family emergency and he wound up having to leave the trip early. Luckily we had driven up in two cars so he was able to leave and I stayed and got a ride home with our friends on Sunday. We had a delicious lunch at Canoe on the Run and then my friends humored my love of mini-golf. I’m not sure why we decided the hottest part of the day was the best time to go mini-golfing, but we did. Perhaps it was all part of my evil master plan to win by taking them out with heat stroke. I love mini-golf but I am terrible at it. I can’t say I was good this time, but I did win. After mini-golf we decided it was necessary for scientific research purposes to try out the other ice cream location we spotted even if they only served Hershey’s ice cream and it wasn’t homemade. We finished off the day with dinner at Ace’s Run. The food was really good and we got to sit outside with a lovely view of the lake on a nice summer’s evening.

Sunday morning after checking out of the inn we went on one final hike in Deep Creek State Park before heading back to the heat in Baltimore. It was a relaxing, wonderful weekend with friends. I wish my husband had been able to stay for the whole thing, but other than that it was the perfect weekend. I definitely look forward to returning to the Lake Pointe Inn at some time in the future, and if you’re ever interested in going let me know and I can get you a deal with a referral code.

New Orleans

I recently went back to New Orleans for the first time in 7 years. I was going for the ALA Annual Conference, which was there this year. The last time I went was in 2011 the last time this conference was there. The Ritz Carlton was one of the conference hotels this year so I decided I would take advantage of the conference rate to stay at a fancier hotel than I normally would. Apparently that also tipped it so that my husband decided he wanted to join me on the trip. I can’t say that staying at this particular Ritz Carlton felt as fancy as other Ritz Carltons I’ve been in, but I’m really happy my husband decided to come with me.

The opening keynote on Friday was Michelle Obama being interviewed by Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress. She talked about Becoming, the memoir she is writing due out in November. It was a great conversation and it made me miss the Obamas in the White House even more than I already do.

After the opening keynote I met up with my husband for dinner. He’s a vegetarian so it was quite the challenge to find places where there was something on the menu that he could eat while also letting me enjoy New Orleans style cooking. Friday night we wound up at a place called G.W. Fins, where I had one of the best meals I can remember having any time in the recent past. Everything started off great with little biscuits they serve. The person who sat us warned that they were addictive and we should pace ourselves. I’m glad the guy serving them only came by our table twice because I definitely didn’t need to eat a third one, but I would have had a hard time turning it down. For my entree I had parmesan crusted sheepshead. It’s a fish I had never heard of before, but it’s basically some type of mild white fish. It was amazing and it was heartbreaking to not be able to take my leftovers with me. If you’re ever in New Orleans I highly recommend this restaurant.

We of course started off Saturday with beignets at Cafe du Monde for breakfast. Saturday was my major conference day. I hit up the exhibit hall in the morning with my husband who I got a free exhibit pass for. I went to a couple of programs that unfortunately were not that good. One was too basic for me and one provided some very terrible copyright information. I spent a couple hours staffing our copyright booth and answering people’s copyright questions in between people asking if they could take my picture at the booth. I finished the day off with a committee meeting.

Saturday night was the one night I didn’t make reservations for ahead of time. That wound up maybe not being the best idea as it took us awhile to find somewhere to eat that had availability and could feed my husband.I originally thought we might walk over to Frenchman Street and find somewhere to eat over there or on the way and then listen to some jazz in some of the bars over there. My feet were too destroyed by the end of the day to make that a viable plan, so I wanted to stick around somewhere closer to our hotel. We wound up at someplace called Mr. B’s Bistro because their website assured us they took walk-ins. The food there was okay, but not nearly as good as G.W. Fins. I wouldn’t go out of my way to go there, but it will do in a pinch.

Since my original music plan didn’t work out we wound up at Preservation Hall instead. I can’t complain about that. We got out of dinner just in time to get in line for the 9 pm show. We even managed to get in early enough that we got to snag a seat on a bench right in front of the fan, which made it only slightly less oppressively hot. I have no idea how those guys play 5 shows a night in that non-air conditioned space during the summer.

Sunday we decided to try Cafe Beignet for breakfast instead because there was one much closer to our hotel than Cafe du Monde. While I appreciated being able to get a banana and some iced chai along with my beignet, the beignets were not nearly as good. They were much more dense. I guess there’s a reason Cafe du Monde is the gold standard of beignets.

I had one committee meeting I had to be at on Sunday morning, so I went to that and then I called it a conference. I was paying out of my own pocket to go to this conference, so I didn’t feel bad in treating it somewhat like a vacation as well. We met up with one my friends for lunch at a place called Magazine Pizza, which met the criteria of being veggie friendly for my husband and having gluten free options for my friend. It was great to catch up with her. Since she is the only other person I know at least personally who goes to at least as many concerts as I do, I was happy to introduce her to my husband so he’s knows I’m not the only crazy music fan out there.

Speaking of being a crazy music fan I found out there was a Cajun Zydeco music festival going on in Louis Armstrong Park. We walked over there and found some shade to sit in and listened to some music for awhile. It was nice to get out and do something that actual people who live in New Orleans were doing rather than just hitting the more touristy places. Also sitting outside and listening to live music is one of my favorite things, so this was a perfect way to spend the afternoon in my opinion.

Sunday night we had reservations at a place called Brennan’s. I didn’t love my blackened red fish. Somehow the seasoning felt sooty even though everything was covered in tons of butter. I was much happier with the rock shrimp that came on the side as well as the zucchini and summer squash mix. I was very pleased with the squash, which is usually mushy and not my favorite. This still had a nice crunch to it.

Monday we basically had time to hit up Cafe du Monde one last time before heading back to the hotel to get showered and ready to head to the airport. It turned out to be a really nice trip. I’ve lost a lot of my normal conference pals in recent years as people have rotated off committees and stopped paying to come to the big conferences. With my husband there I ate at much nicer places than I would have on my own, and it was nice to spend the time with him.