Christmas in Arizona

As we’ve done for the past several years since both my parents and sister’s family are now living in Tucson, we headed out to Arizona for Christmas. Instead of heading straight to my sister’s house after our arrival we all spent the night up in Scottsdale.

My 7 year old niece is now very into American Girl dolls. She had asked Santa for a Samantha doll and had some birthday money she wanted to spend on some outfits, so of course we hit up the American Girl doll store in Scottsdale.

That night we went to some park in Scottsdale where they have a carousel and a little train ride through Christmas decorations. Supposedly the train ride with lights started at 6:30. We wound up getting over there earlier and it’s a good thing we did. My sister immediately got in the train line while we rode the carousel with the kids and played on the playground for awhile. They actually started running the train early around 6 and we were on the 3rd or 4th one. The line when we were done was insane. It would have taken people hours to get through. There’s no way we would have stayed if we had actually gotten there at 6:30. It was cute for the kids, but not something I would recommend if you didn’t have kids with you.

I’ve literally been waiting for years to buy my eldest niece Sorry!. She’s finally old enough for so this year I bought it for her for Christmas. It turns out they already bought two copies of the game when it was on sale on Black Friday, one for my sister’s house and one for my parents house. Needless to say she didn’t need a third copy of Sorry! but my instincts were absolutely correct because the girl was obsessed while I was there. We played at least 100 games of Sorry! while I was there and probably more than that.

That’s mostly what we did for the rest of the week I was there. Play a bunch of games, mostly Sorry! and occasionally something else like dolls or hide and seek. I am very happy for the game loving phase right now because I am not a fan of playing Barbies, which is usually what I’m roped into while I’m there. There was minimal Barbie playing this go round.

The three year old niece is both adorable and a complete jerk in the way three year olds are. She wants to copy everything her big sister is doing and is very good at throwing temper tantrums and pouting when she doesn’t get her way, which is quite often. It’s a good thing she’s so cute.

While the three year old was at preschool on Monday I got roped into taking the 7 year old to see Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. I kind of figured that was going to happen. When I was thinking about kids movies being out at Christmas initially I could only think of Star Wars, which would not be something my nieces would be old enough for or interested in. I said to my husband that I wish there was a movie out we could go to while we’re there. Then I ate my words after I immediately remembered the existence of the Alvin and the Chipmunks movie. It wasn’t as bad as I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t anything I would recommend to anyone who wasn’t trying to entertain small children.

We headed home yesterday. Like last year our flight was delayed while we waited on a flight crew to arrive even though our plane was there. Even though we left an hour late we only arrived about 30 minutes late. Too bad it was another hour and half before we got our luggage. By the time we got home it was almost 2 am.

Aside from the late flight home it was a fun trip.

2015 Ornament

When I was a kid my parents always added an ornament to our Christmas tree for each year. Sometimes it was a home made ornament, sometimes it was from a trip, or sometimes it was for an event like the Red Sox winning the World Series for the first time in forever. I assume they still do it, but I’m not there to put up the tree anymore so I don’t know.

I liked that idea, so I started doing it myself when I got married. For the most part aside from the very first one which is a first Christmas together ornament, all the rest are ornaments from trips. I find that ornaments are great souvenirs as well since I’ll actually get use out of them again and every year when I put the tree up I get to remember all the fun places I’ve been.

This past year it seems like we didn’t travel as much at least not to places outside of our normal goings like to Arizona, New York, and Rhode Island to visit family. We did go to California together, but because that was a trip to visit my husband’s parents and me going to a conference in San Francisco where we also stayed with friends it really didn’t cross my mind to pick up an ornament while we were there.

The one trip we did go on was to South Carolina. We took a beach trip to Isle of Palms, which is outside of Charleston. I did pick up an ornament at a Christmas shop in Charleston. If possible I try to get something hand made locally and not just something made in China. I found this little grass ornament made there, but it’s obviously not something that either had the year already on it or something I could add the year too. Good luck in ten years remembering that was my 2015 ornament without the year written on it.

2015-12-19 08.39.43

While we were in Isle of Palms I managed to collect a ton of sand dollars. I found more sand dollars on that trip than I have in the rest of 37 years on this planet. I decided in order to have an ornament with the year on it I could make one of them into a Christmas ornament. Our trip was in May, but I finally just finished making it last night.

Most if it was procrastination. Obviously I had many months to work on this before December hit, but I didn’t and then there were a lot of steps that involved doing a little bit of something and then not being able to proceed until the next day so it took about a week.

First I had to bleach it. I never did get it as white as I wanted, but I also didn’t want it to disintegrate into dust, which I heard can happen if it is bleached too long. Then I had to wait for it to dry. Then I used a glue water mixture to harden it. That took two days because I had to do one side each day and let it dry in between. Ditto for the glitter glue I painted it with. Then finally I was able to put the writing on it. Then I waited a day and glued a hook on the back. Then finally this morning I tied the ribbon on it and hung it on the tree. None of the steps took that long themselves, there was just a lot of waiting involved. Now it can hang on my tree for the three days before I take it down.

2015-12-19 08.39.31

My Spotify Year in Music 2015

If you’re a Spotify user, which I am, you can go to this link and have Spotify tell you all about your year in music. Mine was mostly not surprising, but it does give a very slanted view of the music I’ve listened to this year. I am still the rare bird that buys most of the albums she listens to, so I listen to a lot of music outside of Spotify.

The first song I listened to in 2015 was “Concrete (Fish Out of Water) by The Revivalists, which is a song I have no recollection of having ever listened to or ever even heard of. I have no idea why I would have listened to it and I obviously never revisited it.

The artist I listened to the most was Garbage, which I wouldn’t have guessed if you had asked me but makes sense since I listened to a lot of their music leading up to seeing them in concert in October. That’s pretty much indicative of a lot of things that show up in my Spotify Year in Music. It’s a lot of listening to music by specific artists preceding seeing them in concert.

That makes sense to me and does signify a lot of how I use Spotify when I’m at work. If there’s a particular artist I want to listen to it’s often easier just to throw them up on Spotify than digging out their individual albums in my own music collection.

What was not at all surprising to me and probably what I would have guessed if you asked me was that the Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording was my most listened to album of the year. I listened to that sucker to death. I can’t wait to see it again next year.

My most listened to individual track outside of listening to an album was “Scarecrow” by Christopher Paul Stelling. He’s an artist that I became familiar with at this year’s Newport Folk Festival. Aside from that being one of the best performances of the festival I know I listened to this song a lot earlier this year when I had one of the worst weeks I can ever remember having at work. The lyrics “So breathe, breathe it out, lay your burdens down,to rest. Breath, through the doubts, never let them get the best, the best of you.” pretty much became my mantra that week, so I’m not surprised that this showed up as my number one track.

My top genres were Folk-Pop, Indie Rock, and Singer-Songwriter, which completely tracks with the kind of music I tend to listen to. I buy it. I also listened to 272 different artists, so as you can tell I’m pulling up a wide variety of music. I never use the Spotify radio channels, so these are all people I’m specifically choosing to listen to.

There’s some other stuff in there as well, but I think this is enough to write about. I don’t think anyone else really cares all that much. Even though it’s a slanted view it was really fun to look back at what I was listening to over the past year. If they keep doing this in the future I hope they let you do a comparison between years because I think that would be great fun to see.



Crafty Christmas Girls’ Night In

My friend Emily had a group of our girlfriends over to her house on Wednesday night for pizza, crafting, and a Christmas movie. Because she’s an awesome hostess she even provided all the materials for our crafting. That was super awesome for me because I am just really not all that crafty. Michael’s and the like scare me.

I made this cute little sign that is perfect for my house in Baltimore. Now I just need to find a place to hang it.

2015-12-11 22.02.57

I also made these ornaments. It’s a little hard to tell but one of them is just a winter scene with snow and trees, but the other is supposed to be a melted snowman. There’s obviously the snow and all the little things in it are the button eyes, carrot nose, gloves, and buttons from the snowman as if he was melted. Sadly the little hat wouldn’t fit through the opening in the ornament.

2015-12-11 22.04.16

We also watched Love, Actually. I know everyone loves this movie, but I have never really cared for it. It’s not like I super hate it or anything, but I definitely don’t get the over-the-top love for it either. Watching it again this week did nothing to change my mind on that either. Oh well. To each his own.

It was a fun night with friends. Everyone is always so busy it was nice to find a time to spend some quality time together.

Kopecky at the Metro Gallery

Monday night I went to see Kopecky at the Metro Gallery. They pointed out that it was their first time playing a proper show in Baltimore and although it’s my third time seeing them I guess it was my first time seeing them play a proper show. The first time I saw them was at the Firefly Music Festival and then I saw them play WTMD’s First Thursdays concert.

I love them a lot and they are so much fun live that I just assumed everyone else shared my same love. Thus I was surprised to see that they were playing the Metro Gallery, which is a pretty small venue and even then the show was not sold out. Too bad for everyone else who wasn’t there because it was a great show.

There were two opening acts. The first was Austin Manuel who I had never heard of before. He’s young and definitely has potential, but does have some growing to do. He was actually backed up by the keyboardist and bass player from Kopecky and used a drum machine app for some additional rhythm. I think if he gets himself a real band with some real drums it will do a lot for him.

The second opening act was Escondido. I had heard one or two of their songs prior to the show, but I hadn’t really ever looked into them much. I really liked them a lot. They were a lot of fun. They were joking with each other and the audience. Their music is great too. I’m definitely going to listen to some more of their stuff.

Kopecky was great as always. They are such a joyous band to see live. They have so much fun with each other and the audience. They’re great at getting the crowd into the music. Even with a small crowd they got the energy really high.

They’re touring with their second album right now, which means they have more to choose from in their sets. Sadly that meant that they didn’t play my favorite song “The Glow”, but they did play a nice mix of stuff from both of their albums. They have consistently played a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” at their live shows, but with more of their own music to choose from this time I was wondering if they would still do it. They did. I was happy because I love the song and I really like their take on it.

The concert only cost $10, which is the cheapest I’ve paid for a concert in I don’t even know when. Given there were three bands and the show wasn’t sold out I can’t imagine they made much if any money on this show via ticket sales so I decided to pick up the physical copies of their CDs at the merch table to throw some more money their way. The show was worth more than $10 to me and I figured that was the best way to support the bands and live music. And bonus because it was such a small venue they came out to the merch table and now I have a signed CD.

I look forward to the next time they’re back in Baltimore.

The 2015 Mayor’s Christmas Parade

I have often written about the annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade that runs through my neighborhood. It is always one of the highlights of my year. My friend Carissa’s birthday is always in proximity to the parade so she throws a birthday brunch and then we all go out and watch the parade together. This year almost everyone brought something sweet so I was almost in a sugar coma by the time the parade rolled around.

I was laughing this year because this is the first time I’ve seen them put an end time on the parade saying it ran from 1-3. Based on past experience I thought either they’ve cut way down on what’s in the parade or it’s going to end a lot later than 3. I was correct. After the sun went behind the buildings it got cold and we’d been out there a long time, so we actually cut out a little early, but based on the drums I could hear from my house it definitely didn’t end until between 4:30 and 4:45.

It was pretty much the same stuff as every year, so I’m just going to throw up a few photos of the new things I noticed this year plus a few of my favorites I took pictures of. Also of note that even though it’s called the Mayor’s Christmas Parade, our current mayor hasn’t been at it for the past 2 years. There were unsurprisingly plenty of mayoral candidates marching this year though. My favorite was the fact that Catherine Pugh didn’t bother showing either but had a contingent of 6 or 7 people marching carrying signs with her face on them that they were holding up.

2015-12-06 13.34.54

2015-12-06 14.53.34
Mr. Hampden himself, Lou Catelli. My friend Lindsey was just saying she wanted him to ride his giant trike in the parade. Wish granted.
2015-12-06 14.43.30
Underdog. Well sort of. For years this woman dressed as Underdog and walked in the parade. Then she did a few years as some sort of female superhero. I’m not sure what she was this year. Everyone still calls her Underdog.
2015-12-06 13.46.10
My campus radio station gets festive.
2015-12-06 14.37.30
2015-12-06 14.37.40
This year a squirrel was added to the parade balloons for whatever reason. Just go with it.
2015-12-06 13.54.31
Bumble truck!
2015-12-06 15.21.46

2015-12-06 16.06.52

2015-12-06 16.07.31
BB8 Car
2015-12-06 16.10.27
A Very Stormtrooper Christmas
2015-12-06 16.08.00
Darth Vader wishes you a Merry Christmas


This is My Jam

No literally this is my jam. My local Giant briefly carried it, and I fell in love with it. I’ve tried many other brands of cherry jam and none of them compare. Of course like everything that is my favorite the Giant stopped carrying it years ago to never have it return. I’ve determined that people in my neighborhood and I must not share the same taste in food because this happens all the time.

At least in this case unlike with some other products this jam still exists in the world. I just have to work a little harder to get it. There’s a Harris Teeter not too far away from where I go to church in Federal Hill that carries it so when I’m running low I’ll swing over there and buy up whatever they have in stock.

This worked well until a couple of weeks ago when I went over there to stock up on jam and they didn’t have it anymore either. Sigh. They must have just recently stopped carrying it because the Smucker’s website still lists it as a location where you can purchase the jam.

The two other closest places to buy the jam are the Harris Teeter or Target (of course the Mondawmin Target which is the closest to my house doesn’t carry it either)  in Canton Crossing. I had to go to Target and Michaels today and since both of those reside in Canton Crossing I decided to make the trek through the city over there so I could hit them both in one location. As a bonus I realized I would also be able to stock up on jam while I was there.

I bought the 4 jars that Target had in stock. If I had been smarter I probably should have hopped into the Harris Teeter and bought up their stock too, but I didn’t. This will have to do me for awhile.

2015-12-05 15.06.35


The Chicken Box

I started this blog to write about the things that are making me happy. That’s what I still write about here, but I’m not as good at writing about the little things anymore as I once was. Now it’s mostly recapping things I’m doing that make me happy like seeing concerts and going to the theatre.

This year is destroying me. I have reached David Simon levels of cynical about the human race. If you know anything about David Simon you know this is not a good place to be in. I know there must still be good in the world, but most days I’m hard pressed to find it. Even the instances where you see people doing good the other side of the story is that there’s something horrible that they’re fighting against.

This is all my long way of saying that I’m going to try and be more conscious about writing about some of the smaller things in the world that are good, make me happy, or just put a smile on my face instead of just recounting what’s going on in my life. Maybe focusing on some of those things will help me feel like the world is not just a giant pile of garbage.

I’m starting off with something goofy that makes me smile. In Baltimore there’s something called a chicken box that you can pretty much buy at any corner take out. It consists of a couple pieces of fried chicken, a piece of bread (maybe a roll), fries and often comes with a half and half to drink.

There’s a local convenience store called Royal Farms (colloquially known as the Farm Store or the RoFo). They are famous for their fried chicken and of course they sell a chicken box. There’s a really old arena in downtown Baltimore that was for awhile known as 1st Mariner Arena. After that bank went under it went back to being called the Baltimore Arena for awhile until Royal Farms paid for the naming rights about a year ago.

It took about 2 seconds for people in Baltimore to start referring to the arena as The Chicken Box. It delights me because it’s so perfect as evidenced by the fact that you never have to explain. People automatically know what you’re talking about if you say an event is at The Chicken Box. I love it.

Carols for a Cure Volume 17

Every year the casts of currently running Broadway shows record a Christmas CD called Carols for a Cure with the proceeds going to Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS. Every year when we got to Broadway shows at Thanksgiving at the end someone from the cast comes out and does a little spiel about donating to Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS as you exit the theatre. You can obviously just donate, but they also generally sell signed posters and these CDs as well. I always pony up the $20 for the CD.

I was fully prepared to buy my CD at the end of Allegiance when to my surprise none of this happened. I have no idea why. At first I thought well the show just opened a few weeks ago, so maybe the cast wasn’t around early enough to record something and thus they don’t even participate in this? Then I found out that the School of Rock cast is featured on the CD and they’re still in previews on that show, so there went that theory. I’m sure that someone who knows more about Broadway politics could tell me, but I have no idea.

Anyway when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to buy the CD at the theatre I was disappointed. I jokingly mentioned to Paul as we were making our way out that I should just go run over to another theatre and get one. Then as we were leaving I overheard some guys talking. They were obviously having the same conundrum I was because I heard one of them say to the other I see them at the door you can run across the street and grab one.

I don’t know if that guy did or not, but I’m happy he pointed out because I totally followed through on what I thought was just a joke plan. As other people were exiting the theatre I snuck into The Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder, which was in the theatre across the street from where Allegiance was and got the CD. I probably would have gone online and sucked up having to pay the shipping on it, but this saved me from having to do that and gave me a fun story to tell.

This year I’m really loving the version of “Joy to the World” sung by the Hamilton cast because they’ve reorchestrated the song with undertones of “Satisfied” from the show. My favorite though is a song called “One Star” sung by the cast of Les Miserables. I’m happy to have my hands on the CD. It’s already worked its way into my Christmas playlist rotation.

Allegiance on Broadway

As is my wont we continued our annual tradition of seeing a Broadway show while in New York City for Thanksgiving. In past years I’ve known exactly what I wanted to see, but this year there wasn’t anything I was super excited about that I hadn’t already seen. There’s a bunch of stuff opening in the spring that I’m looking forward to, but this winter felt like slim pickings on new shows.

I finally debating between seeing Something Rotten and Allegiance. I love me some Christian Borle, who is starring in Something Rotten but this show strikes me as something I’ll eventually see when it tours and I won’t feel like I missed out on anything not seeing it on Broadway. Eventually though it really came down to being able to get better seats for the same price to Allegiance.

Allegiance is inspired by the life of George Takei’s family, who were sent to Japanese internment camps during World War II. He stars in the show as the grandfather and the older version of Sam (his grandson). Lea Salonga stars as Sam’s sister Kei who he eventually becomes estranged from during their time in the camps. You may know Salonga as the singing voice of Jasmine in the Disney movie Aladdin. The chance to see her was also one of the things that was tipping me towards seeing Allegiance over Something Rotten.

The show itself was okay. There was a love story between Sam and a white nurse working in the camp named Hannah that felt kind of forced and all the songs revolving around it pulled me out of what felt like the real story. I get the desire to want to add some levity to a show that is about a difficult subject, but they had some lighter, more amusing songs that seemed to fit better with the major thrust of the show than I felt the love songs did.

Although it wasn’t one of my favorite Broadways shows I agree with my husband in that I’m glad it’s something that was made. There were far more Asian people in the audience than I have ever seen at a Broadway show before. I think it’s great that it is drawing an audience that might not normally go to a Broadway show, and that there is a show appealing to a more diverse audience.

It’s also obviously about an important part of our country’s history that I don’t think a lot of people even know about. I’m a well educated person and I’m not entirely sure that I ever learned about Japanese internment camps prior to being in college. In light of recent events I’m not entirely sure we’ve learned from our history and I fear that we aren’t as far from repeating it as I would like to think. Getting this story out there hopefully will make some people stop and think.

The Friday after Thanksgiving is one of the busiest days of the year for Broadway and the theatre had more empty seats than I’ve ever seen, so I fear this show may not have a long run. Hopefully it impacts the people who do get the chance to see it while it’s running and perhaps even more if it eventually tours.