Something There is New

Perhaps you have heard the new Paul McCartney song New, which was just released yesterday. (By the way Paul way to come up with a song title with some really lousy SEO). If you haven’t heard it yet, stop and have a listen.

I like it. It’s happy sounding. It’s Beatles-like. That however is not what I’m here to talk about. In the 24 hours since I first heard it I’ve been trying to figure out what song it reminds me of particularly in the chorus. It was driving me a little bit insane that I couldn’t figure it out. I was thinking kids song, maybe something from a musical, maybe a Disney movie? I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

Then enlightenment! I figured it out. Hurrah! It’s totally the song Something There from the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. It’s obviously not the same song at all, but there’s something in the beat and tonal changes in parts of those two songs that sound the same to me.

Take a listen. Go back to the Paul McCartney song and start at 0:14. Doesn’t that line or two remind you of this song (I tried to set it to start at the 1:21 mark but I’m not sure it’s working)? Do you hear it too or am I just a crackpot?

Darra’s Surprise 40th Birthday Party

Saturday I helped throw a surprise 40th birthday party for my good friend Darra along with our other friends Alison and Tracie and her fiance Henry. Darra was not shy about insisting Henry throw her a party. Little did she know that the four of us had started planning a surprise party for her months previously. Her actual birthday isn’t for a couple more weeks. We wanted to throw the party before her birthday so that she would be truly surprised. Her fake birthday party that Henry pretended was happening to throw her off the scent and get her off his case isn’t until September 21.

Lest you think the birthday girl wasn’t actually surprised think again.

Photo courtesy of Alison
Photo courtesy of Alison
Photo courtesy of Alison
Photo courtesy of Alison

We held the party at the Woman’s Industrial Exchange, specifically in the Woman’s Industrial Kitchen. The restaurant is only open for lunch on weekdays, so they rent it out for parties on evenings and weekends. The space was actually included with the catering. We found it to be very reasonably priced and the food was excellent. Irene who runs the restaurant was also great to work with. I only met her the day of the event as Henry did the leg work on getting everything booked, but she was very accommodating with our requests and everything turned out wonderfully.

The array of delicious food
The array of delicious food

And some close ups of a few of the dishes.

Gazpacho shot glasses
Gazpacho shot glasses
Deviled eggs
Deviled eggs
BLTs and pulled pork sandwiches
BLTs and pulled pork sandwiches

We provided the desserts.

I made some cookies that said 40 on them. Darra preferred to hold them upside and read them as saying Oh.

2013-08-23 22.23.50

Tracie made a delicious and beautifully made chocolate, red wine, blackberry cake.

2013-08-24 16.54.10

There is a craft shop in front of the restaurant. Henry lured Darra in by saying he wanted to look for something in the craft shop. One of the staff members was in on the plan and told him that what he was looking for was in the back and led them back into the restaurant where we all jumped out and yelled surprise!

I think the birthday girl was quite pleased with her surprise, and I think all the guests had an excellent time as well.

2013-08-24 17.40.04 2013-08-24 18.08.23 2013-08-24 16.53.45

Crazy Cat vs. Lazy Cat

As I have mentioned in this blog before I have two cats. They have entirely different personalities. Charlotte is an insanely crazy, bonkers kitty. I should have known when I picked her out at the SPCA because she was hanging off of her cage door. She treats all of our furniture like her personal jungle gym and likes to sleep balanced precariously on things so not much has changed from the time she was a wee little kitten only a few months old and now when she’s an 8 year old cat.

Scout on the other hand is the exact opposite and is extremely lazy. Consequently she’s a fatty. In her defense she has always been chunky even when she was a tiny little kitten. She looked like she swallowed a baseball. Now she just looks like a big blob. She’s definitely gotten lazier with age. She used to chase toy mice around like crazy, but now she kind of half-heartedly will bat a new one around for a few minutes.

You can totally tell their personalities when playing with the laser pointer. The laser pointer we have is attached to a keychain which makes it jingle when you pick it up. The cats have developed a Pavlovian response and come running when they hear that noise. I don’t know why Scout gets so excited because this is how she plays with the laser pointer now in her old age laziness. She runs and sits under the cat tree and does this. She wouldn’t cooperate for my video, but occasionally she’ll stick a paw out as if she’s trying to get the dot.

Charlotte on the other hand is insanely crazy and bouncing off the walls. She kind of acts like this even when she’s not chasing a laser pointer. She doesn’t really jump at the walls then, but the running thing she does all the time no matter what. Usually it ends with her hanging off the sofas, which I am not a fan of for obvious reasons.


Songs I Love: Things Will Change by Treetop Flyers

I’ve recently been taken by the song “Things Will Change” by English folk rock band the Treetop Flyers, which is off their debut album The Mountain Moves. The band is obviously heavily influenced by 70s folk rock artists like Crosby, Stills, and Nash and America. This song particularly evokes the latter band though not all of their songs do. I don’t think my father has purposefully listened to new music since roundabout 1985, but I feel like this is totally something he would enjoy. I’m waiting for them to be featured in the New York Times column Music Match in which Val Haller tells Baby Boomers about current bands they may like based on bands from their era. Though she has already used both Crosby, Stills, and Nash and America as comparison bands so maybe not.

Anyway, if you like 70s folk rock, I highly suggest you check out “Things Will Change” along with the rest of the Treetop Flyers album. Though maybe don’t actually do it by watching this video. I just watched the video for the first time when looking to embed it in this post and had to stop watching because it was making me dizzy.

Here listen to it via Soundcloud instead.


Tears for Fears cover Ready to Start

Speaking of bands I didn’t realize were back together (as I was yesterday), Tears for Fears just released a cover version of Arcade Fire’s Ready to Start. I guess they’ve officially been back together for quite awhile, but really haven’t been doing much in the way of touring or releasing new music so I don’t feel too bad about not realizing that they were around again. Anyway, this seems like the perfect song for them together. It lends itself nicely to the synth pop music of Tears for Fears. Now I’ll be interested to see what they do next.


The Return of Toad the Wet Sprocket

Way back in the 1990s (please no one remind how long ago that actually was) I was a big fan of the band Toad the Wet Sprocket. They last released an album back in 1997 after which they broke up. Wikipedia informs me that during the intervening years they have played some live gigs here and there together, but they weren’t officially back together during that time. I never bothered to try and keep track of them given that I didn’t think the band existed any longer, but had I been paying attention I apparently would have known via their Facebook page that they finished recording a new album back in March.

I first became aware of their reemergence from a tweet by Sara Watkins. The band has decided to release the new record, New Constellation,  on their own label and were seeking help via Kickstarter to do so. Sara tweeted about the Kickstarter campaign in it’s few remaining hours saying that the band had been hugely influential on her. I know people feel different ways about Kickstarter particularly in relation to established acts, but I choose to support the things I love. Having greatly loved this band during my high school years I decided I was willing to kick in $15 to get the album early along with 4 extra bonus tracks even though the project had been fully funded for almost 2 months at that point. They managed to fund their $50,000 goal in less than a day with a final tally of $264,762. I guess I wasn’t the only one who missed Toad the Wet Sprocket.

For everyone who is not a Kickstarter backer and is not receiving the album early it comes out on September 17. I received my download two weeks ago and have listened to the new album a couple of times since then. The first thing I will say about it is that it still sounds like Toad the Wet Sprocket, which means that it immediately took me back to the sounds of 90s popular music. I’m not in that musical head space any more, so it threw me a little bit when I first started listening to it.  I’m actually not a huge fan of the first single off the album, which is the title track “New Constellation”, so I was a little worried that I wasn’t going to like the album after hearing that. I still like that track the least, but it’s grown on me a little and there are some other songs I really love, particularly “Golden Age”.

If you liked Toad the Wet Sprocket back in the day you should like this album too and should check it out when it comes out in about a month. In the meantime you can actually download a couple of their older songs along with a couple of tracks off the new album for free on Noisetrade.

Of course as seems to be the case with every band I would be interested in seeing live this fall, they are not touring in Baltimore. They’ll be hitting both DC and Philly, but not here. Sigh.

Cards with Friends

My friend Katie decided to celebrate her birthday by having some friends over to play games for the afternoon. I wound up playing a game of Phase 10, which is a rummy type game but played with a special deck like Uno that includes Skips and Wild Cards. It reminds me a lot of a rummy game I have played with family since I was a little kid using just a regular deck of cards called Shanghai rummy.

My family is big into playing cards and it’s something I always do when I’m with them, but I don’t ever really get to play cards other than the few times per year that I see them. If they play anything usually my friends and my husband’s family play board games. I like board games too, but sometimes I miss just playing a game of cards. It would be fun to just sit around on a weekend night playing cards with my husband and a couple of friends or even just playing a game of cards with my husband, but that’s not something we ever do. My husband my doesn’t really like to play cards. He would rather sit around and play on his computer never mind that it’s not social at all.

Anyway, since I get to do it so rarely these days I appreciate whatever chance I get to play some cards. I need to make more friends that like to play cards.

Baking with Zucchini

Ok, already I’m being disingenuous with the title of this post because none of the baking I’ve done has actually been with zucchini. It has all been done with some other form of summer squash. Mostly they’re interchangeable for this kind of thing though so I just used what I had on hand for recipes that all called for zucchini.

As is often the case at this time of year we start to get a little overwhelmed with vegetables from our CSA, especially if one or the other of us isn’t around to help eat them. We had a couple weeks back-to-back where either myself or my husband were gone for dinner more often than not so we started to get a little squash backlog going on in our crisper drawer. What should one do with lots of accumulating squash? Why bake of course. Bonus that I can tell myself that all these baked goods are healthy because they have vegetables in them. Never mind all the butter and sugar. I had 3 occasions recently to do some baking and tried out three different recipes with zucchini in them. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures of the finished products so you will just have to use your imagination.

For the girls’ night I had a couple weekends ago I broke out a tried and true zucchini spice cake (with cream cheese frosting of course) recipe. It is super moist and delicious. There was half a cake left after the party so my coworkers got to enjoy the spoils, and I had several people stop by my office or email me to tell me how wonderful the cake was.

This past weekend we had two parties to go to on Saturday so I decided cookies would be a good way to go so I could split them up and take some to each party. I settled on these zucchini chocolate chip cookies. They had great reviews, so I was kind of disappointed with the end product. There was just something that didn’t sit quite right with me. The texture seemed to cake like for a cookie and flavor reminded me more of zucchini cake than a chocolate chip cookie but it wasn’t really like eating a cake either. I don’t know. Something about the combo didn’t work for me. Apparently I’m the outlier though because everyone at both parties was raving about how good the cookies were and I saw many people eating 3 or 4 of them. I probably won’t make them again because I prefer to bake things I myself enjoy, but I’m happy that other people found them more delectable than I did.

Finally, I made some zucchini brownies to bring to Wednesday night dinner this week. I used this recipe. As mentioned in the recipe the batter seems super dry, but after they are baked they come out extremely moist and delicious. If I hadn’t told people I’m pretty sure no one would have noticed the squash in them. Even with being a couple of tablespoons short on cocoa powder in the frosting they were still delicious. I thought I had more cocoa powder than I did and only managed to eke out about 4 tablespoons of the 6 the recipe calls for. It still seemed chocolately enough.

I’m happy to report all the squash have now been divested of with only one casualty going bad before I got to use it.

Simple Pleasures for This Week

It’s been a long time since I’ve written up some simple pleasures on this here blog. Since some things are conspiring to annoy me at work today I’m going to try and remind myself that there are plenty of better things to focus on.

1. The beautiful weather (Even if it is too fall-like. Come back summer.)

2. The walk I got to take in the park this morning instead of at the gym because of the gorgeous weather.

3. The new doorstop my husband installed a few days ago. Our bathroom door swings out into the hallway. For years it was fine and would stay how you left it open until my husband applied some WD-40 to the hinges. Now it swings open and slams into the wall even if you leave it just a little ajar (thanks old non-level rowhouse). Now the new doorstop keeps the door from hitting the wall even if it won’t just stay slightly open anymore.

4. The new memory my husband installed in my computer (home repairs and computer repairs isn’t he handy?). Over the past I don’t know how long months at least my laptop has been slowly conspiring to drive me insane such that everything I tried to do on it would involve a slow as molasses build up before it would actually function properly. My husband bought some new RAM to put in it. One of the memory chips was wonky and kept making my computer crash so he took that out, but even with only 50% more RAM things are much improved and I no longer want to throw my computer out the window every time I’m using it.

5. Lauren Graham on the Nerdist podcast. Chris Hardwick has mentioned many times over the course of the Nerdist podcast that Lauren Graham was part of a group of people he used to hang out with in the late 90s/early 00s thus I was always wondering why he hadn’t had her as a guest on the podcast and was thinking it might never happen. Much to my delight she was finally on. The podcast went up yesterday and it served as the soundtrack for my walk in the park this morning. It was just as enjoyable as I had anticipated.

The Unexpected Comeback of Dexter

Last night as I was catching up on some of the last few episodes of Burn Notice I was musing in my head about the difference between it and Dexter. (Warning this post includes information on what has happened in both of these shows up to and including the current season so if you don’t want to know stop reading.) Both are long running shows (Dexter is in season 8 and Burn Notice is in season 7) now in their final seasons, but my feelings about them are entirely different. I am forcing myself to watch the final episodes of Burn Notice because I’ve been watching it forever and it seems silly to quit watching right before it ends without seeing how they choose to wrap everything up. I’m not really enjoying the show anymore though, and this season seems especially contrived with the break up of Michael and Fiona just so that they can get them back together in the end for some kind of happy ending. Plus with Michael separated from the rest of the group and the team not really working together this season aside from the ridiculous reasons contrived to let Michael pull in one or two of them into his weekly missions it’s ridiculous and not the show it used to be. I don’t really care what happens to any of them at this point. This show is definitely on my list, along with House, of shows I should have quit watching long before their end, but didn’t.

Dexter on the other hand is the rare show that after kind of falling apart is seasons 5 and 6 has made a great comeback in its final two seasons. Most shows that run for a long time eventually fall apart and are no longer as good as they once were. Once they reach that point it is extremely rare for them to come back in any real meaningful way. There may be an episode here or there within a season that is great, but for entire seasons at the end of a series run to be great is truly rare. The only show that’s coming to mind right now is The West Wing. I know a lot of people might argue that with me, but I thought the last two seasons of that show were great.

Dexter definitely hit a high point in season four with the Trinity Killer arc featuring John Lithgow, and I can’t remember when a show had me as surprised as I was when they killed Rita at the end of that season. After that it seemed like they didn’t really know where to go with the show though, and I started to lose interest in it. Again it became one of those shows that I kept watching out of habit rather than something I was truly enjoying at that point. The show was definitely spinning its wheels because with no official end in sight they couldn’t have Dexter actually get caught. When they finally set an end date, the series started to get good again. Last season was better than the previous two with Deb finding out about Dexter, and I think this season is even better than season 7. I don’t think it tops season 4, but for the show to once again have me interested in watching it again rather than just sticking around to see how it ends is quite a feat I think. The highlight of this season is definitely watching Deb deal with killing La Guerta and her continued feelings about who Dexter is. Jennifer Carpenter definitely deserves at least an Emmy nomination next year if not the win for her work this season. There are lots of clips of Dexter on YouTube, but I couldn’t find one of the scene from episode 3 of this season where Deb confesses murdering La Guerta to Quinn. Carpenter is phenomenal in that scene.

I believe there are still 5 more episodes in this season, and I’m curious as to how they’re going to wrap everything up. I wanted to write this post before the show was over because I don’t want my feelings about the finale to influence the way I’ve been feeling about this season so far. No matter how well or not the writers manage to end the series as a whole they deserve great kudos for once again making Dexter a show worth watching because it’s good as opposed to something to watch just to see how it ends.