More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Colonial Virginia May 26, 2015

Filed under: Family,Travel — dwhren @ 12:22 pm

My parents are in town visiting for a week. Since we have done most of the touristy things in Baltimore over the years we often venture out in the region when they’re here. This trip we went down to Williamsburg, Virginia. Although the rest of us had been before my mom had never been to Colonial Williamsburg before so she wanted to go. It had been long enough since I had been there that I didn’t remember too much about it.

We drove down on Friday and thanks to the always lovely traffic in and around DC it took us almost 5 hours. We didn’t actually wind up getting to Colonial Williamsburg until almost 3pm. Luckily we had purchased multi-day passes that are good for the rest of the year, so we didn’t have to worry about it. We walked around and watched some of their reenactment stuff until things closed at five.

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

Fife and drum

Fife and drum

2015-05-22 17.04.53

Saturday we decided to spend touring Jamestown and Yorktown. I had never been to either one of those before. Jamestown, the site of the first successful colonial settlement, was a really interesting place and my favorite of the three places we went. There’s not much to actually see there in terms of historical buildings or anything, but it is an active archeological site so they’re still working on uncovering information about the settlement. In addition to the visitor’s center, which has the typical visitor center type exhibits and short movie there is also an archeological museum with some of the artifacts they’ve found. There is a chapel still standing that was built much later than the original settlement. There was a living history tour in there with two guys acting in character to tell you about the religious disputes between Catholics and Protestants that affected the colonies. One thing I learned between this and the reenactors at Colonial Williamsburg is that I don’t really care to learn about history this way. I find it kind of goofy. I’d rather just have a tour guide telling me about stuff. We also did an archeology tour that lasted about 90 minutes and was really fascinating. Technically I think it was supposed to last closer to an hour, but I didn’t mind because I really enjoyed everything the guide had to tell us.

Jamestown archeology

Jamestown archeology

Wall reconstruction of original Jamestown church.

Wall reconstruction of original Jamestown church.

After Jamestown we drove over to Yorktown where there are battlefields as well as a historic little town on the water. Lots of people were there for the beach. There is a little section on Main Street that has some historic buildings that we didn’t wind up walking through, but they are there. We grabbed lunch down on the waterfront and then drove around the battlefield tour. I also don’t really care about battlefields. I am not interested in the logistics of war and since it’s all pretty much just staring at some fields while reading a sign about what happened there, it’s really not all that interesting to me. I felt the same way about Gettysburg.

Civil War reenactors at the Yorktown battlefields.

Civil War reenactors at the Yorktown battlefields.

Sunday we went back to Colonial Williamsburg for a few hours. We did the tours of the Governor’s Palace and the Capital building. Those were pretty interesting. After that we headed back to Baltimore. We had great weather and it was a nice Memorial Day weekend trip.

 

Current Pop Music May 19, 2015

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 8:14 pm

I’m really happy with the current state of pop music. At this time of year when the weather is getting warmer I’m always attracted to peppy pop music and country music. The past few summers have really let me down in regards to pop music with the “Blurred Lines”, “Happy”, and “Fancy” of it all. I haven’t really been on board with the most popular pop songs that received heavy rotation in the past few years.

This year however I’ve been loving what pop music radio stations have been dishing up to me. There’s lots of fun peppy stuff. Some of these songs I’m sure I’ll hate by the end of the summer. I’m already starting to tire of Maroon 5’s “Sugar”. That’s what pop songs are for though. Some of them will stand the test of time, some of them I’ll tire of and never want to hear again. Here’s a Spotify playlist of some of the pop songs I’m digging right now. I’d add Taylor Swift’s “Style” to this as well, but her music is no longer on Spotify, so just imagine it’s there.

 

Mad Men May 18, 2015

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 9:48 pm

Last night as I’m sure you know was the season finale of Mad Men. I remember eight years ago when the show started. A number of television critics that I follow were talking about this new show premiering on AMC, which at the time was known solely for showing old movies with a billion commercials in them. It seemed like an interesting concept so we decided to give it a chance. Over the seven seasons of the show I loved much of it and was entirely indifferent at best to other parts of it. I always liked the workplace stuff and couldn’t care less about Don’s existential crises.

I don’t need my finales to be super clever, which I think is the pressure that seems to be on long running tv shows these days. The best finales of shows in my opinion are ones that stay true to what the show was while also giving the audience some sense of closure. The Mad Men finale I think fit the bill. It spent way too much time following Don on his hippie escapades in California, but that in itself seemed exactly like what the show had been. Especially in recent seasons I felt like we definitely spent too much time watching Don do exactly what he did in this episode and the ones leading up to it. I was always bored by that and was indeed bored by those parts of the finale.

I’ve seen a lot of arguments on Twitter today about the final scene of the show and what it meant. I’m perfectly fine with other people interpreting it different than I did, but in my mind Don went back to McCann and wrote that Coke ad. It’s what he’s always done. Advertising is the only thing he’s ever been good at and really the only thing he has in his life. It only makes sense to me that he would go back to it like he’s done at every other one of these crossroads. I’m sure he’ll continue to live his life just as he had before. I saw some people arguing that the ending was much more positive for him and that he did change in his hippie retreat. I personally don’t think that’s the case. I saw people who agree with me, but who were disappointed that he didn’t change. I on the other hand thought it was right that he didn’t. I spent the last three seasons of the show being annoyed that I kept having to watch Don not grow as a human being even thought it’s probably more realistic than if he had. It got old to watch over and over again. That being said, it would have felt wrong to me to all of a sudden have him change now when there was no indication that this time should be any different than any other time before. It may not have been an especially happy ending for Don, but it was the right one in my opinion.

Even though he was the central character of the show, Don was always the one who interested me in the least. I wasn’t entirely sure we would even get to see anyone else but him in the finale. All the other characters seemed to have scenes in the two episodes leading up to the finales that could have served as the end to their stories. An all Don finale was something I totally could have seen Matthew Weiner doing. I’m very glad he didn’t, and that he wrote a much more conventional finale than I would have expected from him.

Peggy and Joan were always my favorite characters. I loved how both of those characters ended up. My favorite scene of the show ever is in the episode “Close the Door, Have a Seat” when they bring back Joan to go with them to their new company. I remember screaming Joan’s name when they started talking about needing someone with her skills. She had a great character arc from the beginning of the show when she was just out to find a husband to the end when she let a man go to pursue her career.

I loved the scene that Joan and Peggy shared together, but it also felt right that Peggy would have stayed at McCann instead of going off with Joan. The scenes with Peggy and Pete and Peggy and Don were also nice ends for the relationships those characters shared. I wasn’t someone who was hardcore shipping Peggy and Stan like some people, but I did love the scene where they get together. I wasn’t opposed to it. I saw some people grumpy that they would make Peggy’s happy ending the fact that she winds up with a guy, but that’s not how I saw it. Call me crazy, but I think it’s entirely possible for someone to have a happy ending in both work and their personal life. After all her failed relationships it was nice to see Peggy presumably end up with someone who is great for her and who will support her career, which she is obviously going to go far in.

I didn’t really care one way or the other about Roger’s ending. He was always a fun character, but I don’t have strong feelings about how he went out with Marie. I did love the end to his relationship with Joan though. They were always great together even though you knew there was no hope of them ever actually having a real relationship. I like that they really settled into a great friendship and that he’s there for their son in a way that works for all of them.┬áThere were also really beautiful scenes with Don and Betty and Don and Sally. They felt like perfect endings to those relationships as well.

Despite sending way too much time with Don at the hippie commune, all in all I was very happy with the finale. I wasn’t thrilled with all of the episodes in the season and it did make me worried about how things would end. For me at least the ending was true to what the show was and the characters that lived within it. I can’t ask for anything more than that.

 

Marley at Centerstage May 13, 2015

Filed under: Pop Culture,Theatre — dwhren @ 9:11 am

My friend Alison and I have season tickets to the shows at Center Stage, though sadly her move to DC means we’re not reupping for next year. I need a new theatre going buddy. Last night was our final show of the 2014-2015 season. It is a new musical called Marley written by Center Stage’s Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, who is also a playwright. As you may have guessed by the title the show is about the life of Bob Marley and features his music.

I love what Kwame Kwei-Armah has done as Artistic Director since taking over at Center Stage in 2011 and really enjoyed Beneatha’s Place, the last play that he wrote that was produced there. However, I was skeptical about this show because I’m typically not a fan of jukebox musicals. I usually find that it’s a real stretch to create a good story surrounding pre-existing music, and I’m just a much bigger fan of shows that feature new music.

I’m pleased to say that I was completely wrong. Marley was fantastic. It’s by far the largest production I have ever seen done at Center Stage. The cast was wonderful, and the set was really well done. The entire production was great. Unlike some other jukebox musicals I have seen, the music in this one didn’t really feel forced at all. Most of the songs were sung in the story in a more organic way at points where Bob Marley was either writing songs or performing them. Since the show is the story of his life and so much of his music is based on his experiences even in the second act where they did do more with having the characters sing the songs to express their feelings it still felt like it fit the story. There was a duet between Bob Marley and his wife Rita where he sang parts of “No Woman, No Cry” and she sang parts of “Waiting in Vain” that had a real showtunes vibe to it while still feeling completely like the music written by Bob Marley. I adored it and wish a cast recording existed for this show just so I could listen to it again.

I don’t know if Kwame Kwei-Armah has any ambitions to try and get this show to Broadway or perhaps the West End in London since he’s British, but I definitely think it would make a fantastic Broadway show. The production at Center Stage runs through June 14, so if you’re anywhere near Baltimore I highly recommend that you go.

 

Vacation in Isle of Palms, SC May 11, 2015

Filed under: Travel — dwhren @ 7:41 am

This past week Paul and I spent our vacation in Isle of Palms, South Carolina, which is a barrier island outside of Charleston. I adore the beach and wish I could spend more time there. As it is I’m lucky if I get one week a year visiting one. Paul doesn’t care about going to the beach at all, so I try to find places where there is also something else for us to do. I had never been to Charleston before, so I thought this would be a good location as I could go to the beach, but we could also do some sightseeing in Charleston as well. It was about a 9 and half hour drive down, which included a half hour stop for lunch. Not the closest place, but not a horrible drive especially once you get past DC.

We rented a condo in the Wild Dunes resort, which from what I can tell takes up close to half the island. There are lots of different condo complexes as well as single family homes. We stayed in a complex called Port O Call, which was at the far side of the resort so it did feel like it took forever to actually get out of Wild Dunes and get anywhere, but it also meant that things were nice and secluded and quiet. The condo was great with a nice screened in porch that opened out right across from the pool for the condos and was mere steps from the beach. I don’t think I’ve ever stayed somewhere that was as close to the beach as this place.

The beach was great. It was still before we were really in high beach season, but even then I don’t imagine the beach there would get super crowded because it’s essentially private for the people staying there. This is what I’m used to from spending 25 years going to the beach in Amelia Island, Florida where my grandmother lived. In fact my husband and I both said that Isle of Palms reminded us of Amelia Island in a lot of ways. They obviously have the same sort of vegetation growing as even the smell driving through the resort reminded me of driving through my grandmother’s neighborhood. It’s much nicer than going somewhere like Ocean City where obviously most people in Baltimore vacation at the beach where it is wall to wall people. The beach was also great for taking nice long walks as it went on for miles and miles. I like nothing more than a nice long walk on the beach, so this was perfect for me. Paul stepped out on the beach for about five minutes on our last day there. As long as he has an internet connection he’s happy. I guess his vacation was the much nicer location of sitting out on the screened in porch instead of his normal basement.

2015-05-02 18.15.17

Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy the beach as much as I would have liked. Despite going to the beach a full month before the start of hurricane season we were cursed with lousy weather the last half of the week from what eventually became tropical storm Ana. It was too windy on Wednesday to sit out on the beach without getting blasted by sand. I did go for a walk, but even that was unpleasant at times. You had to be walking in the water. Thursday it was cold, windy, and rainy most of the day. I did again get out for a walk where I only get sprinkled on a little. Friday because I’m an idiot who refused to miss out on my beach walk especially on the last day, I went out and got poured on for most of the walk which was particularly miserable when the rain was driving into my face the entire walk back. Most of Friday though turned out to be fairly nice and I got to sit on the beach for several hours in the morning. I do feel like I got cheated out of half of my beach time though.

I have also never been to a beach where I found so many sand dollars. I found more sand dollars on this vacation than I have in the rest of my life combined. Now I just need to figure out what I want to do with them all.

2015-05-06 16.23.17

Tuesday we went sightseeing in Charleston. We went out to Fort Sumter in the morning. You have to take a ferry to get out there. I can’t say much for the fort itself. I’ve been to any number of forts built in this era at this point and there’s just not really anything different about them. I don’t know that I need to go out of my way to see any more of them. The ferry ride was nice though and the park ranger that gave us a talk on the ride over was insanely good at his job and was very informative and entertaining at the same time.

2015-05-05 10.52.392015-05-05 10.55.13

After the tour we walked over to a restaurant I wanted to eat lunch at that was a couple miles way, so we got to wander around Charleston a little bit on foot. We did a lot more of that while trying to get the visitor’s center and going the wrong way after lunch. We took a carriage ride tour, which gave us a nice bit of history about the town. We didn’t tour inside any of the houses, but we saw plenty of them from the outside.

One thing you hear about Charleston is how great the food is. My original plan as such was that we would go into Charleston for a nice dinner at least one night while we were there. However, I didn’t think to try and book anywhere ahead of time and by the time we got down there are the highest rated places were booked up, and it didn’t seem worth it to by-pass all the restaurants that were much closer to us for only moderately rated food. So mostly we went into Mount Pleasant, which is just over the bridge from Isle of Palms.

There aren’t a whole lot of restaurant options on Isle of Palms itself and most of the ones there seem more like beach bar type places. We did eat on the island the first night we got there at a place called Acme Low Country. We luckily managed to snag a spot in the bar to eat at since the hostess told us we would have to wait an hour for a table. The food was actually really good. We did have a lot of good food on the trip, but this was probably one of my favorite meals.

We wound up eating at some sports bar in Mount Pleasant one night as the restaurant Paul picked out had no one there while the other two restaurants in the shopping center across from it had lots of cars parked in front of them. The food was just ok, so maybe we should have stuck with the original plan. Who knows.

The day we went into Charleston we ate lunch at Hominy, which was really good. It’s essentially all the low country food you think of when eating in the South. They even gave you boiled peanuts to start your meal, which is a gross Southern thing I don’t understand even having spent much of my childhood there but I appreciated the sentiment.

We ate at the restaurant at the marina on Isle of Palms, the Morgan Creek Grill, one night. It had a great view and we got a beautiful view of the sunset over the water. The food was just middling though, and it took us forever to get service. Despite at least three servers walking by our table we eventually had to flag down the hostess to get her to get us a server before someone decided to actually stop and wait on our table.

One night we ate a restaurant in Mount Pleasant called Crave. The food was excellent, and the proportions were insane. We both had enough food that we took home leftovers and ate them for dinner the next night as well. Our final night we also ate in Mount Pleasant at a restaurant called Page’s Okra Grill. It was extremely popular. It seemed like everyone who lived in Mount Pleasant was there waiting for a table. The food was pretty good though not the best we had on the trip.

Aside from the weather all in all it was a very enjoyable trip. Other than going to see family I generally try and go to new locations for vacations, but I can definitely see returning there again in the future if I want nothing but a beach vacation.