Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell at Wolf Trap

Remember back a few months ago when I was debating whether or not to go see Steve Martin and Edie Brickell in concert at Wolf Trap? Well I decided to do it, and last night was the concert. Despite the horrible traffic getting down there it was totally worth it. Wolf Trap (well technically the concert was at The Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, but who’s going to say that mouthful) is a national park outside Vienna, Virginia. The land was donated to Congress back in 1966. It’s a beautiful venue. There are two performing arts spaces in the park. The Barnes is open year round and The Filene Center holds performances from May through September.

I’ve never seen any shows at the Barnes, but The Filene Center is my favorite place to see a concert. I prefer to sit on the lawn because if you have lawn seats you are welcome to bring in a picnic. I like that their website says that the only limitation on what you can bring in is no kegs. I love to sit outside in the beautiful summer weather enjoying a picnic and listening to some live music. I’ve sat in the pavilion a couple of times though. Once because I wanted to see a show where the lawn tickets had sold out and once because my husband’s company has box seats there and he won tickets in their ticket lottery to see Mamma Mia. That was fun though because in addition to sitting in the fancy box seats we got to go to some pre-show reception for people who are donors to the park or something like that. We could have gone to a dessert reception after, but it’s a long drive home so we didn’t.

Despite my love for Wolf Trap I don’t get to go as often as I would like. It’s about an hour drive from Baltimore if you hit no traffic and given that you have to drive the DC beltway to get there that’s generally not something that happens. I usually limit myself to concerts on the weekends because going on a weeknight means we have to drive down in rush hour traffic. Thus it’s been a few years since I’ve been to Wolf Trap since there haven’t been any shows I’ve been dying to see playing on a weekend.

Since last night’s show was obviously on a weeknight I debated for awhile about whether it was worth the hassle and finally decided it was. First, I really wanted to go to Wolf Trap in general as it had been a long time since I had been there. Second, I really wanted to see Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Since they are touring now to promote the album they collaborated on and there’s no guarantee that they’ll ever make another album together I figured this might be my only chance to see them perform together.

I’m really glad we decided to make the trek as the show was marvelous. Despite a few thunderstorms in the afternoon and forecasts of more throughout the night, the weather wound up being absolutely perfect. It was a beautiful summer night with a nice breeze. The stars were out. Fireflies were flitting about. It was lovely.

The music of course was fantastic too. The show was a lot funnier than I had anticipated as well. I felt like I had always heard that Steve Martin was really serious about his music, so I wasn’t anticipating the amount of comedy that was built into the performance. He introduced a good number of the songs with sort of a mini-stand-up routine, so it was actually a quite hilarious night. The music ranged from Steve playing with Grammy award winning bluegrass band The Steep Canyon Rangers, the band playing a few songs by themselves, and then of course Edie Brickell singing with them on songs from their new album.

I found this video that someone loaded on YouTube of the encore from last night’s performance. It actually gives a very good snapshot of what the entire show was like.

It was a wonderful evening and I’m glad I went.

Firefly Music Festival 2013

Yesterday my friend Lindsey and I went to the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. It’s a three day festival, but we only went on Saturday. It’s an easy 2 hour drive from Baltimore to Dover, so going just for the day was very doable. It’s only the second year for the festival, but I think they’ve mostly done an excellent job with it. Granted I don’t have much to compare it to having not been to any of the really big music festivals like Bonnaroo. I’ve been to Newport Folk Festival, which is much smaller as well as some small one day festivals like the Virgin Festival in its various forms around the Baltimore area.

2013-06-22 21.21.06

Firefly is much bigger than the ones I’ve been to both in regards to the number of people and the size of the venue. The distance between stages helps with the music bleed from stage to stage, but also makes it really difficult to stage hop because it takes so long to get between stages. Mostly it wasn’t a huge problem for us, but there were some times where it was difficult to see as much as I wanted because of set overlaps and the amount of time it took to get between stages.

I guess I should mention that the festival is held at The Woodlands at Dover International Speedway. Parking is free in the speedway parking lot, which is great. It’s rare to find free parking at concerts these days. Despite the name The Woodlands there are not many trees around save for one little forested area. Also can someone please tell me what in the world that area is built on? The ground in much the area was super weird and felt all bouncy like walking on a trampoline. It was very disconcerting especially with thousands of people walking on it. I kept feeling like the earth was going to open up at any moment and swallow me up.

2013-06-22 15.36.12 2013-06-22 15.36.07

Despite the size of the festival I never really felt like it was super crowded until the very end of the night when the musical acts dwindled to just one stage at a time. Then it was like an insane crush of people. I hate crowds so I was not really enjoying that at all. I am happy that this was only for the last few hours we were there though or I would have had a miserable time. There were plenty of services. I never really had to stand in line to get food or go to the bathroom. Well except for the last time I went to the bathroom, but that was my own dumb fault for deciding to go in the spot right next to the stage where MGMT was playing when only one other band was playing. Had I gone to any other restroom area I would have been able to walk right in. The only place I ever had to stand in line was to get water. They had water refilling stations to fill up water bottles, which was great because it would have cost approximately 1 million dollars to buy enough bottled water to stay hydrated. My one big recommendation for them for next year is to add a couple more of these stations.

Oh wait, I lie I have one other recommendation. Don’t wait to open the gates to the festival grounds until 15 minutes before the first band goes on. We were pretty close relatively to the front of the line to get in because we got there and got in line almost an hour before the gates opened and we got there just as The Kopecky Family Band was going on. Had we been further back in line we would have missed their set. Despite the fact that for single day ticket holders they had to scan our tickets, give us a wristband, do a bag check, and wand us with a metal detector the line moved extremely fast once they finally opened the gates so I can’t complain about that.

First up as I mentioned was The Kopecky Family Band. Since we were some of the first people in, we were able to be right up next to the stage for their set. They were definitely one of my favorite acts of the day. I actually don’t care much for “Heartbeat”, which is the single off their newest album that’s been getting a lot of air play, but I love the rest of their music. They have a great variety of instrumentation. I’ll also say it’s the first time I have ever seen anyone in a band play drums with chains before. I read this column in the New York Times a few weeks ago saying if you like Fleetwood Mac you should check out The Kopecky Family band so I was highly amused when they covered “Tusk” during their set. They were fantastic, and I look forward to seeing them again soon. Luckily they’ll be playing one of WTMD’s First Thursdays concerts in August so I won’t have long to wait. This song “The Glow” is one of my favorites of theirs.

Next up we saw Imaginary Cities. I only was familiar with one of their songs prior to seeing them. They were ok, but not probably a band I’m going to be seeking out in the future. They’re not really my thing.

After that we saw ZZ Ward, who love so much. I love her attitude and her blues inspired rock that you don’t expect to be coming out of a white girl. She was a lot of fun live too. One of her songs “Cryin’ Wolf” features Kendrick Lamar who happened to be playing right after her on the same stage, so I was a little disappointed that he didn’t come out and sing it with her. Stuff like that is why festivals can be great. I didn’t really see any cross collaboration happening yesterday though. I definitely look forward to hearing more from ZZ Ward in the future. If you know one of her songs it’s probably “Put the Gun Down”.

After ZZ Ward there weren’t any bands either Lindsey or I were super excited to see so we took the opportunity to grab some lunch and go sit in the one shady area in the festival grounds for awhile to cool down. I’m glad we did because until I got some food in me and cooled down some I didn’t realize how crappy I had started to feel. We mostly had great weather. It was a little hotter than I would have liked during some parts of the day, but knowing Mid-Atlantic weather this time of year it could have been so much worse. It was probably in the low 80s with relatively low humidity, which was great. There weren’t very many clouds though so the sun really beat down on you and without much of a breeze it did get rather hot at times. Mostly I couldn’t have asked for better weather though, especially after the sun started to set. And we got to see the Supermoon right over the main festival stage. It’s like they planned it.

Lindsey and I hanging out in the shade.
Lindsey and I hanging out in the shade.

After our break we headed over the see Alabama Shakes. I don’t have much more to say about them after having seen them both at the Newport Folk Festival and the Virgin Mobile FreeFest last year. I still enjoy them, but they’re not doing a whole lot different from I’ve already seen.

Britney Howard of The Alabama Shakes
Britney Howard of The Alabama Shakes

We left Alabama Shakes’ set a little early to make it over to one of the other stages to see CHVRCHES. I am very glad we did because they were amazing and probably my favorite act of the day. I will even forgive them their super annoying to type out name. They’re an electronic synthpop band from Scotland. Currently they only have out a 5 song EP, but their full length LP is due out in September. I had heard that they were great live, and they did not disappoint. They had a lot of interaction with the crowd, which you know I love and their music of course had everyone dancing. I would love to see them in a club venue some time. Hopefully they’ll be back around this way when they tour for their new album.

After CHVRCHES we saw part of the Crystal Fighters set. I had never heard of them before yesterday, and their music is definitely not something I would listen to normally and won’t probably be listening to again in the future. However, as sometimes happens even if you don’t like a band’s music that much you can still enjoy seeing them live because they put on a great show. This was my feeling about Crystal Fighters. They had the crowd super into their show, and I had fun dancing around to them even though their music isn’t really my cup of tea.

Next up was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I only like some of their music, but I had always heard that Karen O., their lead singer is great to see live and that was true. I wouldn’t quite put her up there with Florence levels of insane stage presence, but she’s getting close. I enjoyed their set and can see how seeing them in a more intimate venue would be fantastic.

Leaving the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is when things started to get a little insane crowd wise walking over to see MGMT. I am not a huge MGMT fan, but like a few of their more well known songs like “Kids” and “Electric Feel”. I’m sure they played “Kids” at some point, but I didn’t hear it as we wanted to get back over the main stage to grab a good spot for Tom Petty. We basically stayed at the MGMT set long enough to wait out the ridiculous bathroom line over there and then walk back over to the main stage. We did get to hear them play “Electric Feel” right before we left so that made me happy.

Tom Petty was the headliner for Saturday night. The last time I saw Tom Petty I was in high school and he was doing his Wildflowers tour. It pains me to think about how long ago that album came out at this point. I went to that concert with my friend Natalia, my sister, and my sister’s boyfriend at the time. For some reason my sister decided she wanted to leave before the concert was over and as her boyfriend was the one who drove us we wound up leaving before the encore. Sadly, I still have not seen a full Tom Petty set as we too left only about halfway through last night. By the time Tom Petty was playing I had had my fill of dealing with drunk people falling on me and people constantly shoving past us in the crowd to get closer to the stage. Luckily I never really felt like that for most of the day, but at the end of the night I was ready to be away from people. Also we had a 2 hour drive ahead of us starting from the time we would get out of the parking lot. I couldn’t bear thinking about how long it would take us just to get out of the festival grounds and then the parking lot if we left with everyone else. Thus I decided I wanted to leave a little after 11. So you see Tom really it’s not you, it’s me (or my sister). I really do love Tom Petty. The only box set I’ve ever owned is a Tom Petty one. I do wish that I had been up for seeing the whole concert, but I got see enough to get my fix in. He has such an extensive catalog of music that there’s no way of knowing if he was going to play it, but I do wish that I had seen him play “American Girl” as it’s my favorite. He might have played it after we left, but I didn’t want to hang around waiting for it and then not even have him play it. Lindsey got to here him play the one song she wanted so I didn’t feel too bad about asking her to leave a little early.

I’m very happy we did leave early though as even with almost an hour left in Tom Petty’s set it took us almost 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot. As it was we didn’t get back to Baltimore until 2 am. I can’t even imagine how late we would have gotten home if we had stayed. As I was already driving dead tired halfway through the trip home I’m glad we left. I think it was the smart move.

I had a great time during my day at the Firefly Festival and will happily return again next year.

Notes on a Scandal

It’s no secret around these parts that I love television. During the summer months when new episodes of TV shows are light in existence I like to binge watch shows via Netflix or other means. Sometimes I decide to watch a show that has completed its run that I missed out on for whatever reason when it was airing live. Other times I make a decision to catch up with the first season or two of a show that I didn’t start watching from the beginning but that has gotten enough good buzz that I want to be able to watch new episodes when it returns in the fall. This is how I wound up watching shows like Community and Parks & Recreation.

*Note the rest of this post contains spoilers of the first two seasons of Scandal so if you haven’t watched the show and don’t want to find out what has happened then stop reading now.

This summer I decided I was going to catch up on Scandal because the buzz surrounding this show is insane. I didn’t hear much about it during it’s initial 7 episode first season other than being aware that Shonda Rhimes had come out with another new show. As I had never watched Grey’s Anatomy nor Private Practice it wasn’t really something that stood out on my radar at the time. Somewhere in the second season though people started going crazy over this show. Television critics who I have long admired and whose taste I usually share were raving about it and every Thursday night (That is when this show airs live right? I don’t even know.) my Twitterfeed would blow up with people going nuts over the things that were happening on this show. I decided I had to know what the big deal was, so I spent a good portion of my recent staycation catching up on Scandal.

Now that I have watched the show, I have one question for you people. What!?! I really don’t get it. Maybe this show isn’t cut out for being binge watched or maybe it’s because my expectations were built to high, but I do not get why everyone is so gaga over this show. One of the things I always heard about it was how fast it burns through plot and how many plot twists there are. Perhaps because I was anticipating these things the plots didn’t seem so twisty? Though I would expect that would have happened even if I had been watching live. If I learn that your show is full of plot twists then I’m going to start expecting them to happen and start guessing what they might be.

As for burning through plot I’m not so sure that they burned through plot so quickly as much as they rehashed the same plots over and over again at warp speed. Exactly how many times can Olivia and Fitz get back together and then immediately break up? Same goes for David and Abby. Maybe it doesn’t seem like it happens as often when you’re watching over an entire season, but during a binge watch it’s like every other hour.

Also something about the uber-campiness and speechifying going on in this show turned me off. I’m not sure why. You’re talking to the same person who wrote repeatedly about how much she loved One Tree Hill, and you can’t get any more over the top plot ridiculous and campy than that show. And as for the moral speechifying that these characters sometime go into, I love me some Aaron Sorkin speeches not to mention every single speech that Dixie Carter gave on Designing Women, but these aren’t quite the same. They remind me more of the speeches given in say your disaster movies where the president will get up and give some big speech to rally the country, except that mostly on this show they’re being given to just one other person which makes me laugh instead of give me shivers or whatever they’re supposed to be doing.

I am still undecided whether I will continue watching this show into season 3. Maybe I’ll enjoy it more if I’m watching on a weekly basis and getting to take part in the live conversation about the show instead of binge watching on my own. Or maybe I’ve been right all along and Shonda Rhimes’ shows including Scandal just aren’t for me despite the fact that they would seem to be tailor made to my tastes.

If you watch Scandal and love it please tell me, where am I going wrong?

Extended Birthday Celebration — Actual Birthday Edition

Yesterday, I turned the ripe old age of 35. I have to say that this is the first birthday that has ever actually made me feel old. I have a lot for friends that freaked out over 30, which didn’t bother me, and of course you always hear about 40 being a big deal for people. For some reason 35 seems like the big deal to me. I think there are a number of reasons for it. First it puts me in a whole new demographic. Pretty much any time you are asked to give your age for something and age ranges are provided for your response 35 kicks you up into a new age bracket. I no longer reside in that desirable 18-34 age bracket all the marketers are trying to cater to. Also, even though I don’t plan on having kids if I did my age alone would put me into the high risk pregnancy category. I guess that biological clock is still sounding in there ticking its way closer and closer to the death of my ability to reproduce even if I am ignoring it.

Anyway, enough of that. I thought this was a blog about happy things. My actual birthday mostly seemed to revolve around eating. I made plans to try out two restaurants in Baltimore that have been on list of places to try for awhile. For lunch I met my friends Alison and Tracie (plus baby Abby) at Ten Ten. I don’t know why it has taken me so long to eat here. I remember it getting rave reviews when it opened and finding it hard to get in at first, but that has certainly calmed down so I’m not sure why it took me this long to eat there. I’ve certainly been missing out in all that time because the food was delicious. The waiter having overheard mention of it being my birthday even brought me a piece of cake with a birthday candle in it. I certainly don’t expect restaurants to do things like that, but appreciate it. Since I usually go out somewhere for my birthday and don’t have a party it’s been awhile since I’ve had an actual birthday cake. I would have to make it myself anyway, so it was nice to be able to blow out a candle and celebrate for a change. I’ll definitely be back to try dinner there soon.

After lunch Alison treated me to a pedicure. I’m usually pretty boring with my nail polish color choices sticking with your reds, pinks, maroons. I decided to go with something different this time and chose a midnight blue color, which I believe was called Road House Blues. I’m quite pleased with the results.

Enjoy a lovely picture of my feet.
Enjoy a lovely picture of my feet.

For dinner my husband and I went out to Wit & Wisdom, which is the restaurant inside the fairly new Four Seasons hotel in Baltimore. The food was also delicious, but I for some reason did not leave with the same good feelings I had about Ten Ten. First, I think my expectations were higher given the kind of clientele the restaurant generally caters to. As I said the food was delicious so I can’t complain about that. Though I do always question restaurants in this day and age who don’t put at least one token vegetarian option on their menu. My husband who is a vegetarian had to cobble together a dinner made of items off their sides menu. They do list that you can order 3 sides together for a specific price, but it still doesn’t feel like ordering an entree. I knew this going in having looked at the menu online to make sure he could eat something, but it still irks me a little. Mostly I think that it was some small service missteps that left me feeling a little underwhelmed with our experience. I think our waiter maybe had one more table than he should have because although I saw him running around all night and it wasn’t as if he was sitting around or not doing his job, it felt like service was often slow. In a restaurant where the head waiters are required to dress in suits I tend to expect the service to be impeccable, which this wasn’t. It wasn’t awful or even something I would normally complain about except for the fact that they didn’t live up to what I would expect from this kind of restaurant and  also paled in quick comparison to the meal I had eaten at Ten Ten just hours before. I would be willing to go back though, and would love to be able to eat out on their new patio on a night that it isn’t raining like it was last night. I will also give them kudos for having some non-alcoholic “cocktails” on their menu. As someone who can’t drink and doesn’t like soda, my options for drinks when I go out are usually limited to water. Thus I appreciate it when restaurants offer me something more exciting to drink. More restaurants should do this. It would be in their best interest as Wit & Wisdom got an extra $8 out of me that they wouldn’t have if their drink menu was all alcoholic drinks plus soda.

The rest of my day in between food outings was spent finishing up season 2 of Scandal, which I will talk about in a future post because I have questions. I’ll get to that sometime soon. You Scandal watching people, be on the look out.

Extended Birthday Weekend Celebration — Sunday Edition


Sunday I hosted on of my book clubs at my house. This book club is currently doing a theme of books based around food. For my selection I chose Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. I read about it on NPR Books shortly after we had settled on that theme for our next go around of books and it seemed perfect. The book is a graphic novel, which appealed to me being somewhat different than our normal selections. Everyone really enjoyed the book and the food I made from the recipes in the book was all quite delicious. It’s not a very good picture, but here’s what we ate.

2013-06-16 13.34.52Tortellini topped with homemade pesto. Salad made with a homemade dijon vinaigrette, shitake mushrooms, homemade chai, 2 types of cheese whose names I don’t remember, bread, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. All the homemade recipes came from the book. One thing I learned from the book was that I have been cooking mushrooms wrong my entire life. I’ve been crowding them and not just leaving them brown but stirring them way too much. I’ve always liked mushrooms, but cooked the proper way it turns out they’re even better. The chocolate chip cookies were also a big hit both at book club and at the party I took them to the day before. They’re nice and moist and have a good flavor. I look forward to trying out some of the other recipes in the book.

After book club I spent the rest of the day being lazy, which was nice because the rest of my time off I’ve been on the go pretty much non-stop. After spending the entire past TV season seeing my Twitter feed blow up over Scandel I decided I would catch up with it before season 3 starts in the fall. It took me all of season 1 (which was only 7 episodes) and the first 6 episodes of season 2 to really get into it. I kept waiting to figure out what everyone had been raving about. I still don’t know that I’m as in love with the show as everyone else, but I’m definitely getting more into it. It’s way more over the top melodramatic than I care for. Though I’m not sure why this show feels like that way to me when I loved something like One Tree Hill which was even more melodramatically ridiculous and yet never bothered me in the way this show does sometimes. I’m going to keep watching though. One thing is definitely true that this show burns through plot like nobody’s business. It reminds me of the first couple of seasons of  The Vampire Diaries that way.


Extended Birthday Weekend Celebration — Saturday Edition

Ok, so nothing I did on Saturday was really related to my birthday, but it was a fun day spent with a variety of friends nonetheless. We had two parties to go to yesterday. First up was our friends David and Jessica’s House warming / just married / not living in sin anymore / meet our cats party! It was a fun afternoon catching up with some friends and eating yummy food.

Directly from that party I headed over to my friends’ Liz and Nate’s house. They decided to do a bbq kind of last minute to take advantage of the beautiful weather that Baltimore has been having this weekend. Nate grilled up some delicious burgers and we enjoyed the evening hanging outside in the beautiful weather and playing some corn hole, which I am awful at. Sorry to anyone who has ever had the misfortune of being my partner in that game.

It was a great day with lots of good friends, food, and fun.

Extended Birthday Weekend Celebration — Friday Edition

My birthday this year fell on a Tuesday, which is kind of a lame day to have a birthday. I guess they all can’t fall on weekends. As generally happens to me this time of year, I had a lot of vacation time to use or lose in the month of June so I decided to take the Thursday before through my birthday off for an extended birthday celebration vacation.

We already know what I did on Thursday. So what did I do with the rest of my time off?

Friday did not start out nearly as fun as Thursday since along with this birthday came the need to renew my driver’s license in person. It could have been worse, but spending an hour at the MVA was not really the highlight of my vacation. I now have a new license that doesn’t expire for 8 years, so hooray for that.

Friday afternoon I treated myself to a matinee of Before Midnight. I adored the first two movies in the series, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, and had been eagerly awaiting Before Midnight. Due to the fact that I am an inferior being deigns to live outside of New York City or Los Angeles I have been denied this pleasure prior to this weekend. The movie opened in limited release in NYC and LA over Memorial Day weekend, while the rest of us had to wait. The ends of both previous movies are ambiguous leaving you not knowing what will happen in the future of Jesse and Celine’s relationship or whether they will have one. Although you find out in the first five minutes of Before Midnight, I really wanted to go into the movie unspoiled with no knowledge of how things might have progressed between the characters over the past 9 years. I did heroically avoid to find out anything about the movie through constant vigilance. It meant a dodging a lot of reviews about the movie the weekend it opened as well as movie and radio ads leading up to its wide release. This did result several times in the rather dignified practice of closing my eyes, covering my ears, and shouting lalalalala really loudly until the ads were over. Even though it ultimately probably doesn’t mean anything to your actual viewing of the movie I will not get into specifics in case anyone else reading this hasn’t seen it yet and also prefers to go into it unspoiled. I will say that I loved it and it felt like the perfect place for these characters to be in 9 years after we last saw them. If you liked the first two movies you’ll like this one too.

Friday night was spent at the Orioles/Red Sox game with my husband and 4 of my friends. Though I was wearing a Red Sox shirt, I was kind of agnostic about who won. I was a Red Sox fan first, but the Os have been my hometown team for going on 13 years now. Also I mostly really don’t care about baseball, I just enjoy sitting outside at a game and eating bad for me stadium food. The Os wound up winning in a nice double play at the end. 95% of the games I’ve been to in the past have been Red Sox games and usually those games at Camden Yards feel more like a home game for the Sox since there are so many Sox fans there. For the first time the stadium was mostly a sea of orange so good for the Os I guess. Seems like people haven’t abandoned all hope from the season they had last year yet. The weather for the game was gorgeous. It was the perfect night to be out at a game. Plus there were post game fireworks that were very cool. Lots of varieties I’ve never seen before.

A few days before the game my friend Alison came across this article in the Baltimore Sun about the Sweet Baby Jesus milkshake, which is a milkshake made with Sweet Baby Jesus porter, Sloop Betty Vodka, and Kahlua, being made at the bar inside the Marriott hotel by Camden Yards. Naturally we decided it was necessary to try such a concoction, so headed over after the game to try one. We sent our friend Darra to do the dirty work of ordering the crazy thing since the bar was super crowded with people coming in after the game and we knew the bartenders would hate anyone ordering such a ridiculous drink even if it is on their menu. Darra is someone who doesn’t mind pushing her way to a bar and being a PIA. I’m sure the bartenders hated us even more after a number of people saw the drink and asked what in the world it was. We saw a couple of others being made after that. It was actually quite delicious despite the fact that the concept of a beer milkshake sounds pretty nasty.

A not very good picture of me enjoying the milkshake.
A not very good picture of me enjoying the milkshake.

Visit to NPR Headquarters plus a Tiny Desk Concert

The posts on this blog tend to fall in a dozen or so categories of things that generally make me happy. Today’s post is so great it fits into 6 of them. A super, awesome big thanks to my friend Janel for making it happen. We met a few years ago at one of the American Library Association conferences. We generally only see each other when we happen to be at the same conference, but keep in touch via ye olde Facebook and Twitter.

Janel is a librarian at NPR. If you pay any attention to NPR then you are probably aware that their Washington, D.C. headquarters recently moved into a new building. Yesterday they had a friends and family open house to show off the building, and Janel kindly invited me down to check it out. As luck would have it I had already planned on taking the day off work to use up some vacation time, so I jumped at the chance.

My husband kindly drove me to the train station in Baltimore and I took the commuter train down to DC. The new NPR building is conveniently within walking distance of Union Station, so I didn’t even have to deal with the Metro when I got down there.

NPR Headquarters
NPR Headquarters

As part of the open house they had a little tour set up whereby you got a passport that you could get stamped at different areas in the building, which you could then turn in to be entered into a raffle for various prizes. I didn’t wind up taking pictures of much of the building, but there are plenty of photos out there that are professional and better than anything I would take with my phone if you want to see more.

One of the things they are touting about the new building is how green it is. They have a green roof. You can see part of it along with some of their satellites in the picture below. If you look closely you can kind of see the mounds, which are where trees are planted on top of the columns in the building. I never thought of trees being planted on green roofs, only plants and grasses, but I guess they do it. I of course did my part to ruin it by accidentally littering on the green roof. We were eating lunch out on the terrace and it was really windy. One of my napkins got away from me and onto a part of the roof that was fenced off so I couldn’t retrieve it. Can’t take me anywhere.

Green roof and satellites
Green roof and satellites

They also have a couple of bee hives, which are full of I believe 20,000 bees that will hopefully pollinate the vegetation on the roof. Eventually they will hopefully make some honey as well. NPR honey!

The NPR Bees. You can totally follow them on Twitter at NPRBees.
The NPR Bees. You can totally follow them on Twitter at NPRBees.

The highlight of the tour for me was getting to attend a Tiny Desk Concert (If you have no idea what I’m talking about see here and here). Obviously if you’ve ever read this blog before you know I love music, and I am a big fan of NPR music in many of its incarnations. The one NPR station I’m a member of is WXPN, which is an NPR music station. (Though I do tell my husband during every pledge drive that we should give some money to WYPR as we listen every morning. We’re stealing our radio!) As such, I of course love the Tiny Desk Concerts. Janel’s desk happens to be right near the Tiny Desk space in the new building. (The librarians’ desks are all spread around the building. I didn’t think to ask why at the time.) She tweeted about it after they moved in, and I jokingly said something about needing to figure out a reason I needed to come hang out at her desk during one. Because she’s awesome Janel took me seriously and look here I am at the Bob Boilen’s desk, aka the Tiny Desk!

Proof I was at the Tiny Desk!
Proof I was at the Tiny Desk!

Although it would have been awesome to see a band I love perform, it turns out that the band booked for the day was a band I had never heard of, the Brooklyn band Hem. I wound up really liking them though, which was even better since part of the joy of Tiny Desk Concerts is discovering new artists to love. It will probably be several weeks before the concert goes live on the site, but I’ll definitely post it here when it does.

Hem performs a Tiny Desk Concert.
Hem performs a Tiny Desk Concert.

In addition, to getting to tour the building and attending a Tiny Desk Concert it of course was great to be able to catch up with Janel for a few hours since I haven’t seen her in person in about a year. Hopefully we’ll see each other again before another year goes by.

My trip home was a little adventurous. I miscalculated how much time I would need to get back to the train. I thought there was no way I would make the 2:20 train home when the Tiny Desk Concert was over so I stayed around to check out the new NPR store in the lobby of the building where you can go buy your NPR swag. Turns out if I had left immediately I would have made it as I missed the train by only 4 minutes. Thus I had to hang out at Union Station for an hour before the next train. That wouldn’t have been a big deal except for the line of severe storms that rolled in right as the 3:30 train was leaving. This would have been an instance where ignorance would have been bliss. The storms themselves never seemed that bad where we were. It was obviously raining hard and we got a little bit of thunder and lightning, but it wasn’t anything I would have thought twice about except for the fact that I was checking Twitter and the entire train ride was nothing but news sources posting tornado warnings for places our train had just rolled through, the scariest one being for BWI airport minutes after we left that station. As I didn’t have a radar to track the storm in conjunction with how the train was moving I had no idea where we were in relation to the tornados or if one was going to break out right by us. Obviously there would have been nowhere to take shelter and being on a train car was not really where I wanted to be in that kind of situation. Thus it was a rather nerve wracking and anxiety inducing ride home. I made it safely though, and I’m glad I got to make the trip down for the afternoon.

Of Monsters and Men with Half Moon Run and HAIM at Merriweather Post Pavilion

I went to see Of Monsters and Men in concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion last night with my friends Lindsey and Laura. First I would like to thank Mother Nature for giving us a beautiful night sandwiched in between the crazy storms of Monday and the equally crazy storms being predicted for tonight. I’ve done the concert in the rain (and hail!) thing at Merriweather before and it’s not something I particularly care to do again. We had lawn seats, and it was still rather muddy in some spots from the previous day’s rain, but we found a spot that wasn’t too horrible to sit in. I wore flip flops though so my feet were absolutely disgusting from walking around the lawn to get to it. All in all it was a great night weather wise though.

I had never heard of the first opening band, Half Moon Run before but I quite enjoyed them. They’re an up-and-coming Canadian band who I do expect to hear more from in the next few years. They have a really mellow kind of electronic sounding rock vibe going on. Some of their songs had some really great drum tracks going on in them that I really enjoyed. I’ll definitely be listening to more of them in the future. I always like it when opening acts I’ve never heard of wind up being bands I want to hear more from.

The second opening act was HAIM. One thing I learned last night is that I have been pronouncing their name wrong in my head. I don’t know that I had ever heard anyone say their name out loud before they did at the concert last night. Turns out it is not pronounced Haim as in Corey Haim, which is how I was saying it. Instead it is pronounced Hi-Em. The band is made of three sisters, whose last name is Haim, plus a non-related drummer. I had heard a lot of buzz about them in the past year, and listened to their EP on Spotify a few times, but hadn’t really spent a lot of time investigating this band. I also know they have opened for a lot of other bands I really like over the last year, so I should have realized that I would like them a lot. I will definitely look forward to getting a full length album from them at some point. It was a apparently was a big night for percussion in the opening acts at this show as HAIM was also really into drums. I will say this is the first time I have ever seen the lead singer of a band play the guitar and a drum simultaneously. Ok, well not really simultaneously as that would be fairly impossible, but in alternating fashion during the same song I guess. She had one drum set off to her side and held one drum stick to beat on it in between playing the guitar. All 4 members of the band played the drums at some point, and their set ended with what essentially was a drum line of all four of them just playing the drums. The one bad thing about their set was that one of the singers mics was not set up properly. It was feeding into the speakers inside the pavilion, but not to the ones out on the lawn. It wasn’t that noticeable while she was just singing backup, but when she took over solo or was just trying to talk to the audience between songs we couldn’t really hear her. Luckily that wasn’t very often. Again I look forward to seeing and hearing more from HAIM in the future.

This was the third time I’ve seen Of Monsters and Men perform live in the past year or so. I saw them for the first time at the Fillmore, a little club in Silver Spring, Maryland. Then I saw them at The Newport Folk Festival last summer. As their venues have gotten bigger I have gotten farther away from them. At the Fillmore I was pretty much right up by the stage. They played a second tier festival stage at Newport, so it still wasn’t that big. At Merriweather, especially with my preference for lawn tickets there, they were significantly far away from where I was. Despite the increasing size of their venues, they still put on a good performance and get the audience involved in the show. Not every band that has a good command of the audience in a small space can translate that well once they move into bigger venues. The production values of their performance have definitely gone way up since I first saw them last April, but they were still good about getting the audience into singing and clapping along not just letting the fancy new lighting and set designs do the work for them. You can definitely tell they are more well known now and that they know it. The first two times I saw them, they coached the audience with the chorus lyrics to “Mountain Sound” and had us sing along with them as kind of a call and response. That didn’t happen at this show, and it didn’t need to as that song has now had plenty of radio play as the second single off their album. As they are still working off of that single album, they played it in its entirety along with a couple of new songs and one cover. They still put on a great show, and I will happily see them in concert again, but think I’ll wait until they have some new music out before I pay to see them again.

Here’s a video of them playing Little Talks at last night’s show that someone threw up on YouTube.

Visit with the Arizona Family

Sorry things have been a little quiet around these parts. I spent last Thursday through Monday in Arizona visiting my parents, sister, brother-in-law and nieces. Then I came home with a cold, which was happily short lived. It’s kind of weird that all my family lives in Arizona now. It makes it both easier and harder to visit them because yes they’re all in the one place now so I only have to travel once to see everyone, but on the other hand it is not easy to get to Arizona. It’s expensive and you pretty much have to allot an entire day of travel on either end whereas when my parents were in Florida I could easily fly down after work and not waste a vacation day flying. The same goes for many of the places my sister has lived previously such as Boston and Chicago or Pittsburgh where I could just drive. And of course since they’re all there now and there’s the kids the burden is always on me to be the one traveling. I guess they’re worth it though. I mean look at these cuties.

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Though this one looks all sweet and innocent she apparently saved up her terrible twos until she turned 4. There were a lot of temper tantrums being thrown while I was there and I gather this isn’t an anomaly at the moment. The one good thing about it is that it meant I didn’t have to play Barbies with her non-stop the entire time I was there as she had lost all her Barbie privileges.

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Friday while her mommy was working and her daddy stayed home with the baby, Katelyn, her grandma, and Aunt Danielle took a trip to the Children’s Museum. The section where you can pretend to drive the emergency vehicles was still her favorite.

2013-05-31 11.52.43 2013-05-31 10.55.53 2013-05-31 10.52.15We also spent a lot of time swimming in their pool since it’s the desert and hot out. Though it’s so hot out that even with the pool water being 88 degrees the water felt chilly because it was almost 20 degrees cooler than the air. I don’t have any pictures of pool time, but I wish I had gotten one of the baby holding a squirt gun and looking like she was about to shoot it at people.

Monday morning before I left I spent some time watching Jaclyn while her mommy was working, her sister was at school, and her daddy was running errands. She’s a little goof. She can totally walk around while holding on the edge of furniture, but unlike most babies who have reached that stage she has zero interest in you helping her walk. If you try and hold her up and help her walk she just lifts up her legs or gets noodle legs. She totally knows whats going on with the camera. When I went to take this picture she was lying down on the floor with her face on the pillow. She saw me get the camera, sat up, and gave me this big cheese face.

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We of course spent some time reading books. What kind of librarian aunt would I be if we didn’t do that?

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Hey let me out of this baby jail!
Hey let me out of this baby jail!

I probably wont’ see them again until Christmas, which is the major drawback of them all living so far away. I’ll just have to keep in touch with them the old fashioned way…you know, via Skype.