More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Easter in NYC March 28, 2016

Filed under: Family,Friends,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 10:59 am

We headed up to NYC for the Easter weekend to visit Paul’s sister and her family. Unfortunately my brother-in-law was sick the whole weekend, so we didn’t get to see much of him as he was quarantined in the bedroom. I didn’t see him at all on Saturday and only saw him long enough on Sunday to say a quick hello and goodbye. So that was too bad.┬áSaturday during the day we just hung out and played with our niece and nephew, grabbed some pizza for lunch, and then dyed some Easter eggs.

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Uncle Paul is always a good sport. He’s hidden under that mess of pillows somewhere.

Saturday night Paul and I met up with one of my Twitter friends for dinner. When Twitter was doing their little 10th anniversary hashtag #LoveTwitter the other week I said I love Twitter because it’s allowed me to meet so many awesome people that I would not have otherwise. As far as social media goes it’s the only one that’s really allowed me to connect with people I don’t already know. Facebook I’ve always kept locked down to only my real life friends (though sometimes Twitter friends eventually get to move into that category because they do become real life friends). Maybe if I used Facebook differently it would change things, but I don’t. Instagram I don’t have locked down, but I don’t follow that many people there and it seems way less social to me than either Facebook or Twitter. Maybe I’m just old and don’t get it but I don’t get how you really have much interaction there. And I am old so I haven’t even ventured into Snapchat. So Twitter is the one piece of social media I use that has actually led me to meet new people. Between Twitter recommendations and following other people followed by people I follow I’ve met a lot of great people online and then when the chance has presented itself have gotten to meet up with some of them in real life. A lot of it’s been a hey we’re going to be in the same place at the same time we should meet up kind of thing, but I’ve also made friends who we now purposefully travel to get together. Twitter certainly has its issues, but I do appreciate how it’s connected me to other people.

Anyway on Saturday I finally got to meet up with someone I’ve known over Twitter for a few years. We’ve talked about trying to meet up a few other times I’ve been in NYC, but our schedules never meshed. This time it actually worked out. We had dinner at a Cuban restaurant before Paul and I went to see a Broadway show. It was really great to get to finally meet her in real life and hopefully we’ll be able to meet up again in the future.

After dinner Paul and I went to see Bright Star, which is the new Broadway musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell. Yes that Steve Martin and that Edie Brickell. If you’ve paid any attention to either of them in the past few years you know that they’ve written two bluegrass albums together and apparently somewhere in the midst of that decided to write a Broadway show as well. The music in the show is also bluegrass, so I’ll be curious to see how that goes over. I’m already in the tank for bluegrass music, so I loved it but I’m not sure how Broadway audiences in general will go for it. Luckily the show got a very positive review in the New York Times, so hopefully that will help.

The story takes place in the 1920s and 1940s North Carolina moving back and forth in time to tell the story of Alice Murphy’s life. She’s played by Carmen Cusack, who was amazing and who I could listen to sing all day long. Without saying too much her character experiences a tragedy in the 1920s that influences what her life has become in the 1940s. It’s a very old-fashioned musical. There’s not a lot of spectacle and of course the bluegrass music makes it seem very rootsy, but I loved it. The friend we met for dinner had actually seen it a few nights prior and suggested she wasn’t sure if she was watching a Lifetime movie or a Shakespearean story. I came down the side of a Lifetime movie, but after thinking about it a little changed it up slightly in my mind. Instead of a Lifetime movie, which I tend to think of as more over-the-top melodramatic, I settled on more like those old Hallmark Hall of Fame movies/mini-series that used to air. I think this story would fit right into one of those. I feel like the way I’m talking about it is selling the show short because it is very beautiful and I loved it and that’s why I worry it won’t connect with Broadway audiences at large because I hope it does. So you know if you’re looking for a non-typical Broadway musical and can’t get tickets to Hamilton check out it’s bluegrass cousin Bright Star.

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The twins were already up and eating their Easter candy by the time we rolled out of bed, so we missed the egg hunt aside from the few random ones they had missed finding. We spent Easter morning watching Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, as I’m sure you all did. In a true “I’m living in the future moment”, my 5 year old niece said “Siri play Revenge of the Sith”. It cracked me up, and we did wind up watching it. My niece loves Star Wars probably even more than my nephew, which makes me really happy about Rey in the new Star Wars movies. She hasn’t seen The Force Awakens yet, but when I saw it I thought of her and was really glad she’ll get to grow up with a strong, female Star Wars character.

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Our own little Rey and Kilo Ren

We ate Easter brunch at a little Belgian place. I had some delicious French toast. After brunch we walked over to Central Park and did a little playground hopping with the kids so they could burn off some energy. It was a beautiful day so it was nice that we could spend a few hours outside. After that it was pretty much time for us to catch our train home.

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Easter Candy March 20, 2016

Filed under: Food — dwhren @ 8:41 pm

Candy isn’t my first choice in sweets. Generally I like go for things like cake or cookies if I have a choice, but there’s something special about Easter candy. A lot of it of course is the fact that you can only get it once a year. Even the things that have counterparts throughout the rest of the year are better at Easter.

I have my go-to Easter candy that I like to treat myself to every year. Number one on the list of course is Reese’s eggs. They are the best Easter candy and by far the most superior of all the Reese’s peanut butter cup products. They have the perfect ratio of peanut butter and chocolate. At least as far as I know the Reese’s eggs were their original holiday shape. They were the first ones I can ever remember seeing anyway. Reese’s has since branched out into making holiday shapes for many other holidays, but each one has a slightly different ratio of peanut butter and chocolate. The eggs are perfect and definitely the best.

If of course also enjoy Cadbury’s creme eggs. I still remember the first time I ever saw one. I was a kid and there was an Easter egg hunt in our neighborhood in the wooded area by our neighborhood pool. My first memory of one is not even me eating one. My sister found one and I remember being super jealous watching her eat this cool candy that looked like it had an actual egg yolk in the center. I don’t actually remember the first time I ever ate one myself, but I do know I still love the delicious egg treats.

They branched out their eggs a number of years ago with different flavor filllings. I’m a big fan of caramel so I really like the caramel eggs as well filled with a ton of gooey, silky smooth caramel. Don’t tell anyone but I might even like them better than the original creme eggs.

Finally a recent addition to my Easter candy collection is Twix eggs. Twix is my favorite candy bar, so when they started making eggs a few years ago I quickly jumped on that bandwagon. The layer of caramel is gooier and less chewy than in the normal Twix, which I like. You also have a lot more cookie surface area. It all fits together rather nicely. Like with the Reese’s eggs I think I like the Twix eggs even more than their non-holiday counterparts.

I’ll ration out this Easter candy over the next few months and then wait for it to return to me again in another year.2016-03-20 16.10.53

 

She Loves Me March 16, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — dwhren @ 8:20 am

This past Saturday I road tripped it up to NYC with my friends Heather and Karen to see She Loves Me on Broadway. This is the first time I’ve driven up to New York in a long time. Generally I usually take the bus or train because it can be cheaper and/or more convenient than driving. We waited too long to get train tickets and they were too expensive, so that wasn’t an option. The Bolt Bus doesn’t work for day trips because they don’t run buses late enough, and after my last experience on MegaBust I don’t really ever want to travel with them again. Heather graciously offered to drive and smartly suggested that we should be able to find free parking on the street on the Upper West Side.

She was indeed correct about the parking. I never considered it before. I don’t know why since we wound up parking only a few blocks from where my sister-in-law and her family live and I have seen their car parked on the street on weekends. At any rate it worked out very well for us and is something to keep in mind again for the future if need be. I still think the train in the best option, but that can be pricey if you don’t hit the tickets right.

We were ready for brunch after we got into the city. Based on what people were saying they were in the mood for I suggested Sugar & Plumm, which I had walked by any number of times but had never eaten in because it was always too crowded to consider taking my niece and nephew there. We got right in, but I still think it’s not a good place to dine with them if the service is always that bad. The food was delicious, but it took us almost 2 hours to eat lunch. It worked out for us since we had plenty of time to kill, but it’s not something that’s reasonable to do with two five year olds.

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Delicious mushroom and meunster cheese waffle.

After lunch we had just enough time to walk down to Studio 54, which is where She Loves Me is running. She Loves Me is just one of the many Broadway shows I want to see this spring. There’s too many to see everything I want, but I prioritized this show because it only has a limited run as part of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 50th anniversary.

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It is a revival of a 1963 musical production based on the same story that is the inspiration for The Shop Around the Corner and You’ve Got Mail. This production stars Zachary Levi, who you may know as the star of the tv show Chuck, as Georg and Tony Award winning actress Laura Benanti as Amalia, two clerks in a perfume store in 1930s Budapest. As these things happen in romantic comedies they of course clash only to discover they are truly in love in the end.

I actually wasn’t familiar with the musical at all going into it. I was just drawn in by Zachary Levi and Laura Benanti starring in it. I hadn’t yet had a chance to see Laura Benanti perform on Broadway, which seemed a travesty, and I had enjoyed Zachary Levi in his first Broadway show, First Date. He’s got the starring role in a Broadway musical romantic comedy down. The show was quite delightful. It was nice to see a bright, shiny musical for a change. I feel like shows like this are a rarity on Broadway these days.

I was also very happy that Laura Benanti was actually in the performance we saw. I saw her tweeting all week leading up to the show that she was sick and then her understudy went in for her on Thursday night. She apparently made a valiant effort to rally for the shows on Friday and Saturday, but I saw her tweet again on Sunday that she was out for a few days with bronchitis. I’m impressed because I never would have known she had bronchitis from her performance. So kudos to her for putting on an excellent show even though I imagine she must have been feeling like crap.

Needless to say Laura Benanti didn’t come out for the people waiting by the stage door after the performance, and I don’t blame her. Happily Zachary Levi did though. We didn’t get the chance to hang around after seeing him in First Date because we had a bus to catch, but we had plenty of time on Saturday. I was probably in high school the last time I actually hung out by a stage door, so I don’t know if this is how things normally work now or it’s just how it was being done for this show, but everyone lined up very politely along the security gate and Zachary Levi told everyone he was going to make one pass down the line to give autographs and then if people wanted to stick around he would go back down the line and take photos with everyone. He was very nice and very gracious, and it was the most organized stage door experience I have ever had. As you can tell I was very excited to meet him.

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After the show we just wandered around mid-town until our dinner reservation at 6:30. We got a lot of walking in since over the course of the day we essentially walked from 102 to 39th and did some loops in there as well. We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant called Mercato. We had eaten there a few years ago when we went up for Heather’s birthday and she suggested going again. It’s delicious so I had no complaints about going again. We even wound up being seated at the same table.

And that was pretty much the conclusion of our lovely day in NYC. After dinner we cabbed it back up to the car and hit the road home. All in all it was a wonderful day.

 

Full Frontal with Samantha Bee March 11, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 7:55 am

Samantha Bee was never one of my favorite correspondents on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I always found her stuff to be either too over the top or just bizarrely off the wall in not a good way especially towards the end of her run on the show. Therefore I hadn’t really planned to check out her new show on TBS, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. My husband was interested in trying it out though, and since it’s only on one night per week instead of four like the Daily Show (which we have quit watching under Trevor Noah’s reign) I decided I would give it a try.

I’m really happy I did. It’s great. Like John Oliver before her Samantha Bee has taken what she learned working on the Daily Show and crafted her own show with some of the Daily Show’s sensibilities but which is also is its own thing. So far what she has come up with in her first three episodes has been smart, scathing, and funny. It’s also really great to have a woman’s voice in this arena. If you’re the kind of person who would enjoy this show (and I presume you’re smart enough to know if you are) and you haven’t checked it out yet I can’t recommend it to you highly enough.

 

2016 ACC Basketball Tournament March 9, 2016

Filed under: Sports — dwhren @ 1:22 pm

I took off work yesterday to go down to DC for the first round of the ACC basketball tournament. Essentially it was the 2 play-in games for the 4 worst teams in the conference. They don’t officially call them play-in games, but that’s what they are. The good news about Wake Forest being so lousy at basketball these days it that I knew they would be one of the four teams playing. You could get fairly cheap single day tickets for the Tuesday games, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that I could go and be assured of seeing my team.

I’m never going to stop being mad at Maryland for leaving the ACC because it means I no longer have a guarantee of seeing a Wake game in person every year. However I will forgive my friends Brian and Teresa for moving from North Carolina to San Francisco even though it means that I don’t have the bonus of scheduling visits with them during basketball season and have the chance to see Wake play in Winston-Salem. So in short it was nice to have the opportunity to see a game in person for the first time in a couple years.

Wake Forest has had a pitiful basketball team for far longer than I care to think about at this point, but I am not a fair weather fan. I still go to games when I can and watch them on tv when I have access to them. Maryland leaving the ACC means that we don’t get nearly as many Wake games broadcast here as we no longer have a local ACC network. At least DirectTV and ESPN finally got their act together this year to allow me to watch games online if I happen to be home when they’re on.

Of course being at a game is a whole different experience. I got giddy walking into the Verizon Center and hearing Wake’s pep band playing our fight song. It’s so much more exciting to be a part of a crowd (or what little of a crowd there was at this game). Even though Wake lost to NC state in the end it was still a good, exciting game to watch. Wake ended their season how they’ve played it all year long losing by missing a ridiculous number of free throws and after sticking with other teams for most of the game letting them run away with it in the final five minutes. At least they’re consistent I guess.

I’m hopeful for next year. It will be Danny Manning’s third year as coach. We have some good, young players and it will be the first year he’ll be playing with a team that’s mostly his recruits. They may wind up disappointing me once again, but I’ll keep watching them anyway.

At least Wake isn’t as bad as poor Boston College. We stuck around for about 3/4 of the Boston College/Florida State game. Boston College hadn’t won a conference game all season, so I was rooting for them to at least get one. They sadly did not.

I wish the ACC tournament were in DC every year. It’s not on the docket again at this point, but I think it should be. It’s pretty central as far as all the teams in the conference go and now that Maryland is gone there’s no team that has any kind of home field advantage in these parts. I think I make a pretty strong case. It’s totally not based on selfish reasons at all.

Even though Wake lost I’m really glad I went to the tournament and got a chance to see them play in person once again.

 

Fuller House March 6, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 10:29 am

I just finished watching the Netflix reboot of the 90’s tv show Full House, Fuller House. I was pretty much the perfect age for the original series when it aired, and I loved it. Although I’m not sure I actually watched it all the way through its final season. I don’t seem to have the same attachment to Steve as DJ’s boyfriend that many people do. I don’t think I saw much of him making me think I missed most of his arc on the show.

I admit I’m a bit of a hypocrite in that I say I’m not a fan of all these reboots and desperate attempts to take advantage of people’s nostalgia and that I wish Hollywood would focus on making new things, but then I’m a sucker and part of the problem because I watch them all. I certainly wasn’t clamoring for a Full House reboot, but when they announced it I didn’t even try to deny that I would watch it.

Most of the reviews I saw of the show majorly panned it, but most of them are missing the point. This is not a great show in any stretch of the imagination. It’s not even really a good show, but it is exactly what it is. It’s exactly the same thing that it was back in the 90s for better or worse. It’s definitely not something that most adults will be interested in watching aside from the nostalgia factor. If it wasn’t something you watched the first time around, it’s not for you unless you’re someone looking for a tv show to watch with your young kids. Like the original Full House before it, Fuller House is a show I see appealing to elementary school aged kids. It’s definitely something I see my 7 year old niece loving.

It fills a niche that I don’t think is really being filled at least for people who don’t have cable. I presume it fits into the same genre as the shows on the Disney Channel that my nieces watch like Austin and Ally and Girl Meets World. I watched sit-coms with my parents when I was a kid during prime time. I have no idea what scripted shows in prime time one could even watch with their kids anymore. There’s nothing I can think of that would be appropriate for or of interest to young children.

I don’t have kids, so that’s not actually the reason I’m watching. I’m just doing it completely for nostalgia’s sake. Nostalgia for the show itself and partly for this genre of sitcom that doesn’t really exist anymore. I admit I totally loved ABC Family’s Melissa and Joey, which is only a slightly better show than Fuller House. So critics be damned. If you have fond memories of the original Full House or have some kids you want to keep entertained then I say give Fuller House a try.

 

The Baltimore Book Thing March 5, 2016

Filed under: Baltimore,Books — dwhren @ 4:41 pm

Baltimore has many great things and one of those is the Book Thing. They are literally just a giant book exchange open on weekends. People can donate books and then anyone can go in and take as many books as they want. I know a number of teachers who go in and cull their shelves to fill bookshelves in their classrooms. Honestly I always have more books than I need in my house so I’ve never actually brought anything home, but I have certainly donated trunk loads full of books. The piles of books I bring home from librarian conferences always eventually make their way there. I’m always seeing people wondering where they can donate used books, and I always feel a little sad that wherever they live doesn’t have the Book Thing.

Sadly this past week there was a fire at the Book Thing. Needless to say fire, smoke, and water don’t mix with books or buildings for that matter. They opened up this weekend to help clean out some of the books that were salvageable, but after that they’ll be closed for the foreseeable future as they work on rebuilding. I’m really happy to hear that they plan on rebuilding as something like this could very easily just feel like they need to pack it in. I donated some money to their PayPal account to help out. If you’re in Baltimore (or even if you’re not) I encourage you to help them out. I look forward to their eventual return.