Catching up with an Old Friend

Sunday morning I got to meet up with one of my good friends from high school over breakfast. She and her husband were up in Baltimore for the weekend with their almost 2 year old son. I hadn’t seen her since the year I drove from where I was in college in North Carolina to Boston where my sister was in college and stopped off in Pennsylvania where she was in college to visit on my way. It’s painful to think about how long ago that was. Almost as painful as her telling me her little brother who was a baby when we graduated high school is now himself graduating high school this year. It was great to see her, get to meet her family, and to catch up on life outside of Facebook. For all the annoying things about it, I can say that we probably never would have seen each other again had it not been for Facebook. We lost touch for many years before we reconnected that way. Though I did find some old letters she wrote me a couple years ago when my parents insisted I was no longer allowed to house any of my stuff in their house and I either had to take it or they were going to pitch it. Yes that’s right kids once upon a time if you wanted to correspond with someone you had to write them a letter on actual paper. Anyway it was really good to see her in person again after such a long time. Hopefully we’ll get to do it again before another 14 or so years go by.

Costumes of Downton Abbey at Winterthur Museum

Yesterday I went with a group of my friends to celebrate our friend Heather’s birthday at Winterthur Museum outside of Wilmington, Delaware. They currently have an exhibit of costumes from Downton Abbey. The $20 gets you timed access to the Downton Abbey exhibit plus access to their permanent galleries and a tour of the house, which lasts about an hour. Winterthur itself is a large country estate dating from the 1800s that was previously owned by the duPont family (you know of the Du Pont company). It was made into a museum in the 1950s after Henry Francis duPont donated  to create the museum after he built himself a (40 room!) retirement home on the property next door to it.

This was my second time at the museum. There was an exhibit of costumes from Oscar winning films the last time I was there, so I don’t know if costume exhibits are something they do frequently or if it just happened that was what was there on the two times I was there. There are also some lovely gardens at Winterthur, though yesterday’s pouring rain kept us from getting to enjoy them. At least not much is in bloom at the moment, so it didn’t feel like we were missing out on too much.

The Downton exhibit was really well done. They actually set it up as a comparison between Downton and Winterthur and the differences and similarities in how they operated as English and American estates during the same time period. The costumes were displayed with photos of the scenes where they were worn, sometimes looping video of the scenes they were worn in or lines from the script written on the wall, and information about the costume design or who would have worn a particular outfit and why. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey it is probably something you would really enjoy. The exhibit runs through the end of 2014, so you have plenty of time to get up there and see it if you are interested.

They were also having a Downton Abbey themed tea, which we did. I would definitely say it was not worth the $30, so if you’re going up I would skip it. I’ve done high tea any number of times and this was not nearly as nice. First, it was set up as a buffet instead of you being served your food on pretty little tiered trays, which definitely makes it feel less nice. Second and even worse was the tea itself. All other teas I have been to have involved a large selection of tea choices, which are then served as loose tea. This tea involved literally a pile of tea bags on the table with only about 4 flavors and none of them very exciting. I’m not even sure why they bothered to try and brand the tea as a Downton Abbey tea if they weren’t going to follow through on it. The first item listed on their menu was Mrs. Patmore’s salmon dill sandwiches or something like that, but it was the only thing on the menu that seemed even remotely related. If they were going to give up after the first item, I’m not sure why they bothered. The whole thing was pretty disappointed and definitely not worth the price. Save yourself the money and spend it on a real high teas somewhere else.

After getting back to Baltimore most people had to head home, but a handful of us stuck around and I feel like continued with the theme of the day by playing Clue. I mean a board game set in a large mansion, what could be a more fitting end to the day? In case you were wondering Dr. White (we renamed her because we decided it’s wrong that none of the female characters have professional titles) did it with the candlestick in the kitchen.

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Songs I Love: Are You Okay? by the Dum Dum Girls

“Are You Okay?” comes from the Dum Dum Girls recently released third album. Though they have been around in some form or fashion since 2008, this album is really the first I’m hearing of them. This particular song reminds me a lot of female led musical groups from the 90s like Mazzy Star and The Sundays. I feel like the melancholy guitar paired with the sultry sounding female vocals gives it that same vibe. If you like the music from either of those bands I recommend checking out The Dum Dum Girls.


Songs I Love: Eminence Front by The Who

I tend to write a lot about new music on this blog, but that is not to say that there aren’t a ton of older songs that I also love. During this music series I have going on this week I feel like it’s only fair to step away from new musical discoveries to talk about an older song that I really like. I literally settled on “Eminence Front” by The Who because I heard it on the radio driving home from the gym the other day, and thought to myself this is a really good song. I think it’s probably my favorite song by The Who. So here we are.

I like a lot of music from 1970s for two reasons. One the kinds of music I tend to gravitate too were very popular then, and two it was the music of my parents’ generation. I read an article at some point in the last year based on an academic study regarding musical tastes and it turns out people have almost equal good feelings towards music that was popular during their formative years and music that was popular during their parents formative years presumably because their parents played it a lot. That would totally fit with my feelings towards 70s music since my father stopped listening to new music round about 1985.

Granted “Eminence Front” was actually written in 1982, but like many songs and fashions that appear at the beginning of a new decade it still holds the sensibilities of the previous decade. This song definitely feel much more like a song from the 70s than it does the 80s.

The way this song builds from the beginning is what really makes it outstanding. It starts off with what sounds to me like the steady beat of a cymbals being tapped, then the keyboard comes in creating a steady beat. Then the drums fully kick in and just a couple of beats behind them the guitar follows until they are all working together to create a great instrumental riff. I also really love the way what has been a steady guitar riff changes going into the chorus at the 3:16 mark. It’s a brilliantly written song, and I love it.

Songs I Love: Slow Me Down by Sara Evans

I find it interesting that this is the second Sara Evans song I have featured on this blog given that I don’t consider myself a huge Sara Evans fan. I generally like the songs she has that wind up as singles played on country radio, but they’ve never really inspired me enough to look into her full albums for some reason. There are a couple of things I really love about this song. First I love the plucky musical sounds that begin the song and then recur throughout it. I also really like the juxtaposition of the ideas of hurrying up to slow someone down. I like clever word play. Finally, the song is like 60% chorus, which makes it super easy to learn the lyrics and sing along to. As I have previously mentioned I don’t listen to music in ways that engender me to learning lyrics easily anymore, but singing along to songs is great fun so I like when I come across a song that I find myself knowing the lyrics to without realizing it.

The Oh Hellos

Yesterday I wrote about a fairly new band that I’m enjoying. Today I’m going to talk about The Oh Hellos, who are not a new band but have somehow only recently come to my attention despite the fact that they play exactly the kind of music that I love. Their LP Through the Deep Dark Valley was released in 2012, so it’s a couple of years old at this point. I feel like it should have made its way on to my radar at some point, but it did not until now. It finally entered my consciousness thanks to the Newport Folk Festival, who announced that they will be one of the bands playing there this summer. The Newport Folk Festival always introduces me to some great bands I hadn’t heard of before, and The Oh Hellos are no exception. The Texas band composed of brother and sister Maggie and Tyler Heath play their own take on folk rock and it is delightful. You pretty much will never not get me when you use clapping and stomping as rhythm in your songs. I’m very much looking forward to seeing them live this summer.



Also enjoy this performance from Music City Roots that they end kind of humming my favorite hymn “Come Thou Fount”

Royal Teeth

I recently became aware of the band Royal Teeth mostly through the NPR Music coverage of SXSW. They were mentioned more than once, and Stephen Thompson included their song “Wild” on his Austin 100 playlist. I really liked it a lot, and was intrigued by the descriptions of their live performances so I decided to check out their full album. I really like the whole thing a lot. The Louisiana band’s debut LP Glow was released last August, and it is full of joyous songs.

Based on what I’ve heard about their live performances and the fact that I really like their music I hope Royal Teeth tours near me soon. They don’t have much by the way of tour dates listed on their site at the moment. The closest they’re getting so far is the Firefly Music Festival, which I sadly can’t attend this year because I’ve already booked a conflicting vacation. Hopefully they’ll add more dates soon and one of them will be Baltimore. Hear that Royal Teeth, please come to Baltimore!

Check out the song “Wild” if the little ooh ooh oohs don’t immediately endear you to this song, then there is no hope for you.

Then once you’re hooked on that take a listen to their full album.

Simple Pleasures

The recent weather from this winter that won’t go away has been making me extra grumpy lately. That coupled with lots to do both at work and at home hasn’t left me much time or will to sit down and write anything here. I haven’t written about music here nearly as much as I once used to, and there are lots of songs/artists that I have thought about writing about but haven’t yet. Thus I’m declaring next week music week here on this blog. The two people who bother to read my music posts, my mother and my friend Erin, can enjoy it. The rest of you can take a break for a week.

To tide you over until then here are a few simple pleasures in my life at the moment.

1. It’s the first day of spring and for a change it’s not freezing cold out. The forecast calls for a return to the cold next week, but I will enjoy the next few days and the fact that winter is now officially over at least in words if not deeds.

2. Related to number 1 I was listening to WXPN and they are playing songs in celebration of spring and the first song they spun up was Amos Lee’s “Windows are Rolled Down”. This is why this radio station is my favorite because we are so sympatico. That is totally my springtime song.

3. It’s the first day of NCAA basketball tournament. Wake Forest of course isn’t in it because they are still stuck in their downward spiral, but I still enjoy the tournament and playing in the pool I’ve been involved in for many years. Hopefully this year I will do better than last year when I was pretty much out of contention on the first weekend.

4. It was raining yesterday which gave me a chance to enjoy the new wind shield wipers my husband put on my car for me. Talk about your simple pleasures there.

5. The fact that I have now programmed my friends and family to post adorable polar bear things for me to Facebook and Twitter. It means that adorable things show up for me, and I don’t even have to seek them out.

6. Finally settling on a vacation for May. I’ve been bugging my husband for months about planning something. Now that I’ve finished my quest to go to all 50 states it’s much harder to figure out what to do. Before it was pretty easy in that I just picked a state(s) I hadn’t been to before. Now the whole wide world is open to me. It would be nice to go abroad again, but since I couldn’t get my husband to commit to anything or even offer a single opinion (he’s so annoying sometimes) I just let time tick away and then it felt too close to plan a big overseas trip. So with zero input from husband I decided on Key West. I have no idea if he has any interest in going there. Beach vacations aren’t necessarily his first choice, but he was smart enough at this point to not say anything about it if he doesn’t want to go there. Now I have a nice, hopefully sunny beach vacation to look forward to. I can’t wait.

The Veronica Mars Movie

Last night Paul and I went to see The Veronica Mars movie, and I’m going to share my thoughts about it. I’m going to try and keep it as spoiler free as possible so don’t worry if you haven’t seen it yet. I won’t ruin anything for you.

Looking back at the posts on this blog I was shocked to discover that it doesn’t seem like I wrote about supporting the Kickstarter campaign for this movie. Unless you’ve been living under a rock I’m sure you’re familiar with the story. Veronica Mars was a much beloved, but low-rated television show that ran for 3 seasons and was then canceled. It never felt like the story was tied up to me, though I know some people think the ending fit for a series that was based on film noir. Like many other television shows that people have loved there has been constant clamor for the show to resurrected as a movie. Creator/writer Rob Thomas and star Kristen Bell always said they were on board to do it if they could ever find a way, but I never thought it would really happen.

Then thanks to the existence of Kickstarter they had a method for raising the funds to get the movie made. I was so excited when I saw the Kickstarter announcement because it meant that the movie was probably actually going to happen. I gladly chipped in my $50, which in addition to supporting the movie got me some stickers, a t-shirt, a digital download of the movie, a copy of the shooting script, and  a DVD copy of the movie. All the backing rewards alone seem well worth $50, but I probably would have given that much money just for the pleasure of seeing the movie. That’s how much I wanted it to happen.

Mostly I think people should just let TV shows lie. I see people clamoring for movies for shows like Friday Night Lights, Chuck, and many others. Most of these shows all had nice tidy endings where the storylines were wrapped up and the characters had a good send off. In that case I don’t really see the need for a movie, which I imagine for the most part would never live up to the love of the television show. I didn’t feel that way about Veronica Mars though because of the way the story never felt finished to me.

The only other television show I would really want more from at this point is Gilmore Girls. Even though I don’t really want a movie made. I really just want Amy Sherman Palladino to share how she would have finished out the show had she stayed on. She always said she knew the last lines of the series from the very beginning, but then she left before she ever got to write them. I have always been dying to know what she would have done. I’m guessing that’s not something that would work in a movie this far removed from the end of the series, so I don’t even really want that.

Anyway, at this point you’re probably thinking get on with it lady. I came here to read your review of the movie and you’ve rambled on for four paragraphs about everything but that. So here it is. I LOVED the movie. It was everything I was hoping for and more. It felt completely like Veronica Mars, which is a good thing. The characters all felt completely right even after all this time. There were many call backs to the show and also some meta jokes for fans of the show, but I also think it was humorous on its own even if you didn’t get all the references. It finally wrapped up things in a way that felt fitting to me, while still leaving things open enough for the book series I know they’re working on. It’s hard to say too much more about it without getting into specifics, which I don’t want to do. I could say more without spoiling major plot lines, but I think half the fun is discovering what they’ve chosen to include. If you loved or even just liked the tv show, you will love this movie.

I was trying to decide if it could stand as a movie on its own without someone having seen the tv show. I eventually realized I was too inside to really be able to figure that out. I would be curious to hear what someone who saw the movie without having seen the show first thought about it. I don’t think they would enjoy it as much, but I think it would still work for them.

I rewatched the entire series over the last few months, but if you don’t get a chance to do that and want a little refresher going in to prepare take Alan Sepinwall’s advice and rewatch the “Mars vs. Mars” episode and then any of the season 2 episodes with Gia in them to remind yourself of who she is if you don’t remember. Then go forth and enjoy the movie. Now that I’ve seen it in the theater I can hardly wait to rewatch it via the copy I already have as part of my Kickstarter reward.


I get an almost ridiculous amount of vacation time. I joke with my husband that he gets paid in actual money and I get paid in vacation time. Our fiscal year runs from July-June, and I long ago accumulated as much as I’m allowed to carry over each year, which means unless I want to lose any time (I don’t) I usually wind up with a bunch of time to take in the last few months of our year. I decided to use up some of that time by taking a week long staycation over this past week.

My original plan was to sit at home and catch up on my reading. I pretty much failed at that goal, but I did lots of other enjoyable stuff instead. I’m not entirely sure what I did with my Monday other than get my car washed. I must have done some reading as well. Most of the rest of the week was spent catching up with friends and their kids over lunches.

Tuesday I went down to meet up with my friend Kristen. I got to visit with her 1 year old daughter for a little bit and give her her birthday present. It was books of course. She apparently loves books though, so it was a good choice. Kristen and I got to enjoy a nice lunch together and catch up. After I got home I cooked up a chicken pot pie to take over to friends who just had a baby. I took that over to them and got to meet their little peanut. He’s a cutie. I got to snuggle with him while he was sleeping. It’s amazing how tiny a newborn is compared to a one year old.

Wednesday my friend Tracie and her 15 month old daughter came to meet me for lunch. My cats weren’t quite sure what to make of the creature crawling around on our floor. She’s adorable, and it cracks me up that her sign for cats is shaking a finger at them as if to say no because her cat is kind of mean and she associates bad kitty and shaking her finger at all kitties. So she kept shaking her finger at my cats too. So cute.

Thursday was my day of pampering. I got my hair cut in the morning and then got a massage in the afternoon. Paul and I had date night last night and went out to dinner at Birroteca. They were a little off their game last night for some reason. Both of our pizzas seemed overcooked, so it wasn’t as good as normal. Oh well.

Today I got to have lunch at my friend Sarah’s house. She saw on Facebook that I had taken a staycation and invited me up to check out the new house they just moved in to. I hadn’t seen her recently so it was great to hang out with her and her 2 and 1/2 year old son this afternoon. It had been even longer since I had seen him, so it was fun to see how much he’s grown since then. I remember him as a little newborn and now he’s a little man and quite the chatter box. Hanging around little kids reminds me of all my bad language habits. Not that I’m cursing or anything, but today I got corrected by him and told we don’t say yeah we say yes. It reminds me of how often my eldest niece scolds me for staying the word stupid. Oops. He also had me read him a ton of books. My friends are obviously raising their kids right since they all seem to love books.

Tonight I’m ending out my vacation by seeing the Veronica Mars movie. My thoughts on that will get a separate post tomorrow. Stay tuned.

All in all it was a good week off. It went by too fast though. Work weeks never by as quickly.