More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Songs I Love: Go Back by Darlingside May 27, 2016

Filed under: Music,Pop Culture,Songs I Love,Uncategorized — dwhren @ 1:56 pm

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about music here that isn’t related to a concert I’ve been at. I’ve been meaning to write about “Go Back” by Darlingside for awhile but for whatever reason hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m finally remedying that today. I’m going to say that “Go Back” is the first single off their 2015 album Birds Say because it’s the only song I’ve heard played on radio from it, but I could also be very wrong about that.

Anyway it is a wonderful bluegrassy song with beautiful harmonies. I don’t really have much else to say about it other than I love it. It is wonderful.

Also in things that have nothing to do with why I like the song, I can’t listen to it without thinking of this scene from Lost. So there’s that.

 

 

 

 

Enjoying the Good Times May 23, 2016

Filed under: Baltimore,Food,Friends,Life — dwhren @ 7:55 am

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia and stresses of life and not really take time to stop and smell the roses as it were, but this weekend offered some great times for me to think about the blessings in my life and be thankful for them.

As anyone around these parts knows we have been stuck in some awful weather pattern where it has been cold and rainy for weeks on end. Friday we finally had a nice sunny, spring day and it just made everything so much better. I got to get outside for a walk in the park. We got to dine outside at a restaurant in our neighborhood, and then I got to come home and bake a cake while listening to some James Taylor which really fit my weather mood. It was a simple, lovely evening and I very much savored it as it was happening.

Saturday we held our annual Preakness party. Despite the return of the gross rain it was a fun day with friends. We got to enjoy tiny babies, and bigger babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers running around our house. I am still endlessly amused by the fact that even more exciting than the fun animal cups and toys we had for them was the bowl of potatoes they found and played with. Next year we’ll just give them a bunch of produce to play with. I also finally managed to draw the winning horse in our pool, so I had a little extra money in my pocket at the end of the night too.

Sunday I got to head out to horse country for a baby shower for a friend (still in the rain, it never ends I tell you). I could never live out there myself, but it’s nice to escape the city every once in awhile and get out into the wilds of Maryland. That’s one nice thing about Baltimore is it doesn’t take very long to get out into some still very rural seeming places. We had a wonderful afternoon celebrating the impending arrival of what will be a very loved baby boy.

The weekend was a good reminder that my life is pretty good sometimes and filled with lots of wonderful friends and beautiful moments that I should pay more attention to and cherish.

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Part of our Preakness cocktail set-up. This year with fun cups for the kids.

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Part of our Preakness cocktail set-up. This year with fun cups for the kids.

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Part of our Preakness cocktail set-up. This year with fun cups for the kids.

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Part of our Preakness cocktail set-up. This year with fun cups for the kids.

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Part of our Preakness cocktail set-up. This year with fun cups for the kids.

 

Isle of Palms, SC 2016 May 15, 2016

Filed under: Travel — dwhren @ 2:25 pm

I love the beach, so I always like to take one beach vacation every year. In other years I’ve tried out different beach locations often in places where there are other things to do in the area besides go to the beach since my husband is not a beach person. I also enjoy exploring new places and since my parents moved to Arizona and have now sold both their Florida houses I can no longer combine a trip to the beach with visiting my family most vacation time gets eaten up visiting our two families, going to the Newport Folk Festival every year, and getting my beach trip in. Thus I always liked going somewhere new for the beach.

This year though we wound up returning to Isle of Palms, South Carolina where we went to the beach last year. It had a lot going for it and given all the upheaval and stress between my job which has thrown one awful thing after another at me this semester and him changing jobs and breaking his hand I didn’t feel like spending a whole lot of time planning anything. Plus Isle of Palms was exactly what I was looking for in a beach vacation with added bonus that we could drive there and save money on not having to buy plane tickets or rent a car. We’ve done some Caribbean islands which are fine, but they don’t tend to have the long stretches of beach for walking that I enjoy and now with Zika (not that I’m trying to get pregnant) they don’t seem like the best option. We did Key West a few years ago and while I’m glad I went once I don’t ever feel the need to go back. It was too early in the season to go anywhere north of South Carolina, but I don’t care for the crazy boardwalk laden beaches that are the norm in the closest beaches to Maryland. I got spoiled with the relatively empty and long stretches of open beach on Amelia Island, Florida where my grandparents, then parents lived and thus where I vacationed for 25+ years of my life. Isle of Palms reminds me a lot of Amelia Island and since there’s no real reason for me to go back to Amelia Island now it makes more sense for us to go to Isle of Palms. So that’s how we wound up repeating our beach location this year.

I liked the condo we rented last year well enough so I looked into renting it again, but it wasn’t available. None of the other ones available in the same complex for the week we were looking at seemed as nice as the one we stayed in so I looked to see what else was available. I found one that was just down the beach from where we stayed last year that looked nice so we booked it. Comparing them there were pluses and minuses to both. This year’s kitchen and dining room table were better, but last year’s had a much nicer bathroom and better patio furniture. I’d stay in either one again though.

Paul actually had to work the whole week since he just started his new job a few weeks ago. Since he works from home that wasn’t a problem. He just brought four laptops (yes four!) with him to do his job while I went to the beach every day. That’s pretty much what I did. I got up every morning and went to the beach and took a walk and read my book until lunch. Then  I came back to the condo for lunch and spent a few hours out of the sun watching a couple of episodes of The Good Wife. After that I went back out to the beach for a few hours before coming in and getting ready for dinner. We went out to dinner every night and one afternoon Paul knocked off work early and we went to see Captain America: Civil War. For the most part though I spent a lot of time at the beach as one should on a beach vacation. Friday night we drove into Charleston for a nice dinner, but we didn’t do anything else in Charleston this year.

The weather this year was much better than last year. Last year there was a freak tropical storm that popped up before it was even hurricane season that rained out half of our vacation. Turns out it was the only storm to even make landfall in the U.S. last year too. No tropical storms this year. There were a couple hours of thunderstorms on Friday afternoon that rained out what would have been my last few hours on the beach, but most of the week the weather was great so I won’t complain. It was nice to get out of the cold, rainy weather pattern that Baltimore has been stuck in for weeks and apparently won’t be getting out of any time soon based on the forecast. The one thing I will say about Isle of Palms is that it seems to be a fairly windy beach. Last year I chalked it up to the impending tropical storm, but it was still fairly windy this year though there were only a couple of times where I felt like I was being sand blasted and had to leave the beach before I otherwise might have. My flimsy beach umbrella definitely couldn’t take it, though the much sturdier ones people rented seemed to fare okay, so I’ll have to invest in something better if we go back. I don’t know if the windiness was another fluke, it’s just something this time of year, or if it’s always that windy there but at least in the future I’ll be more prepared.

The only bad thing about the vacation other than the fact that it is now over was that I had a cold (and still do) the entire week. At first I thought it might be allergies because I first started feeling it when we got out of the car for lunch in North Carolina and it did feel more like allergies for the first few days. By Tuesday though I knew it was a full-blown cold. At least it wasn’t an illness so bad that I wasn’t able to still enjoy my beach time. There were a few days that I probably would have called out of work though had I been at home and not on vacation.

It was a lovely relaxing week and I’m not ready to go back to work yet. I’m also sad that my one beach vacation for the year is already over. I wish I could get to the beach more often, but it’s pretty much impossible to go to the beach anywhere around here for just a weekend during the summer because no one will rent you a place to stay for anything less than week during high season. Oh well, I’ll just start dreaming about next year.

 

The Good Wife May 13, 2016

Filed under: Pop Culture,Television — dwhren @ 4:53 pm

While you all spent the last 7 years watching The Good Wife as it was airing, I spent the last 7 or so weeks binge watching it and finishing it just a few days after the series finale aired. The only reason I managed to get through it so quickly is because I had 2 weeks of vacation time in there plus a week when my husband was out of town for work so I could watch The Good Wife every night instead of normal television viewing. I watched the first six seasons on Amazon and then figured I would have to wait until the seventh dropped probably sometime in the fall. Then I realized I could use the free trial of CBS All Access to watch all the episodes of season 7 without having to wait. So while I wasn’t out at the beach this past week I spent my time watching the end of The Good Wife.

It was a show I just didn’t start watching when it started and then by the time everyone, especially my friend Jenny, was telling me how I really needed to watch it it felt too far gone. I just decided that one day when it was finally over I would binge watch it as I did. When they announced during the Super Bowl that it was indeed the final season I decided I could finally start watching it. I was in the middle of some other shows at the time, but once I finished those I finally decided to give The Good Wife a try.

As Jenny always told me I would I really did enjoy it or at least the first 5 seasons of it anyway. Season 6 was not great and season 7 was not much better. It’s weird for me to say this because I’m usually not someone who is a case of the week lover. It’s why I don’t care for procedurals. However, it really was this show’s strength apparently. The show was always half through storyline and half case of the week (although with some recurring clients), which always worked out rather well in my opinion. Then for whatever reason they decided to make season 6 purely focused on Alicia’s run for States Attorney and snooze fest. I never really cared about any of the political campaign crap aside from the fact that it gave Alan Cumming a reason to be there as Eli Gold, who was one of my favorite characters. This combined with the absence of Will really just made it seem like The Good Wife had lost it’s way. They got back a little bit to case of the week stuff in season 7 and those were the strongest episodes of that season in my opinion. Once we got towards the end and it was all about Peter’s trial. Snoresville.

I feel like the best way for me to talk about the series overall is to provide a ranking of characters from worst to best. I obviously can’t hit everyone or we’ll be here all day, but I’m including the major characters plus a few of my favorite recurring guest stars.

14. Grace and Zach Florrick

Pretty much like almost every TV show that’s not specifically about teenagers, teenage characters on adult shows are the worst. Ultimately Grace and Zach weren’t so bad compared to some characters on other shows, but the less I had to see of them the better. I was fine with them in theory, but any time an episode had to revolve around them. Nope.

13. Jackie Florrick

Jackie was actually more of the petulant teenager on this show than the actual kids. I realize she was somewhat of a good foil for Alicia, but again I didn’t really care to see that much of her.

12. Howard Lyman

I only bother to include Howard Lyman in this list because the writers seemed to think it was a good idea to stop making him small comic relief and turn him into more of a major player at the end of series. Why did he seem to appear in more of season 7 than Cary? That’s just wrong. They should have left him as a bit part.

11. Jason Crouse

Jeffrey Dean Morgan is one of those supposed sex symbols that has never done a thing for me, so perhaps I was biased against his character from the start but I never felt like he and Alicia had any real chemistry. I never bought that he is who she would finally allow herself to be with as opposed to some of the other people they flirted with hooking her up with like Finn Polmar.

10. David Lee

Since he was one of the on-again, off-again partners at the firm I felt like I should include him in this list, but I don’t really have strong feelings about David Lee one way or the other. He was a pretty one note character and you never really got to know anything about him outside of the firm. I’ll take this time to say that by the end the writers had very much run out of storylines involving the firm. There’s only so many times these partners can vote each other in and out without it feeling extremely contrived. There’s no way any for real clients would ever stick with a firm that was in as much needless flux as this one was. The fact that we went through it all again in season 7 really showed that the writers knew they had to write something for the people at the law firm, but had no real idea what to do with them.

9. Peter Florrick

Peter was a horrible person, but obviously exactly the character he was supposed to be. Alicia should have kicked him to the curb eons ago, but for the most part I think they did a good job of giving her valid reasons to stay for most of the series. Doesn’t mean I had to like him though, and I suspect I wasn’t supposed to so it’s all well and good. Also, why in the world was Chris Noth only ever a guest star and not a regular actor on the series. I will never understand TV contracts.

8. Louis Canning

My friend Jenny was always talking about the guest starts on this show. I too appreciated them, especially seeing all the Broadway actors who rolled through over the years since it filmed in New York. She was also talking though about how much she loved Michael J. Fox’s turn on the show. I too think he did a great job, though again he was one of those characters you were supposed to dislike. I never really understood what happened to him after they jettisoned him from the firm, but he seemed to end up ok. Someone like him always would I suppose.

7. Alicia Florrick

Yes it’s true the main character of the show only shows up halfway through my list. I liked Alicia and obviously most of the show and characters I liked better than her all revolved around her in some way. I just wish the writers would have let her grow a little bit more. At some point they themselves bought into the whole “Saint Alicia” schtick and wouldn’t ever let her stray to far in any one direction. I felt like it’s why they ended things with Will and then eventually killed him off or again never let things really progress with any other potential love interest until the end.

6. Will Gardner

I don’t really know what the deal was with why they killed off Will. If it’s like I said that the writers weren’t willing to take things any further with Alicia and him so it didn’t make any sense for him to be around anymore and they wanted a game changer at that point in the series or if Josh Charles wanted off the show or what. Whatever it was the show was sorely lacking after he was gone. I didn’t even realize how much until he showed up in the finale and I felt like those few scenes had so much more energy than the previous two seasons combined. Aside from his relationship with Alicia I always really liked Will and Diane as partners and sort of mismatched friends. I missed their relationship after he was gone.

5. Cary Agos

I came into this show predisposed to disliking Cary. Like all of Rory’s boyfriends, I hated Logan on Gilmore Girls, and I felt like here again was Matt Czuchry playing yet another smug, entitled, rich boy. I’m pretty sure that’s how his character was initially written, but he quickly turned into someone much more nuanced and someone I was actually pulling for. At one point after Alicia and he start their own firm one of them says they are the new Will and Diane. As I already mentioned I really liked Will and Diane’s partnership, so I actually looked forward to that kind of developing. Sadly it never really did. Cary and Alicia quickly got pitted against each other and then we wound up with Cary’s stupid trial storyline that dragged on forever. I feel like that was one of the show’s biggest missed opportunities was to really watch the Florrick-Agos firm develop and their partnership along with it. That’s a storyline I would have liked to watch instead of what we got.

4. Elsbeth Tascioni

I’m glad she wasn’t a regular character because I think she worked best as in small doses, but I loved Carrie Preston as the brilliant but kind of crazy lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni. She was always a lot of fun and I loved the juxtaposition of her personality and her genius as a lawyer.

3. Diane Lockhart

I have always been a Christine Baranski fan. Always. Thus Diane was always bound to be one of my favorite characters, and she was. I loved that she was a strong, female character who loved the law and her law firm. I also appreciated that they gave her a love interest in Curt who was so different from her, but also seemingly so perfect. Having suffered through watching the final season on CBS All Access I would never pay to subscribe tot hat service, but the thought of a spin-off starring her almost makes me want to.

2. Eli Gold

I loved Eli Gold. He was always self-centered and calculating, but he always took such delight in it that it was fun to watch and I was always rooting for him. I also just always loved any time Alan Cumming had to play moments where Eli was incredulous about something. They were my favorite. I also loved his relationship with his daughter Marissa. That was a great pairing. I always assumed before watching that he was more of a guest star than a regular cast member given he was doing Cabaret on Broadway during part of the series. I know he wasn’t in every episode, but I never remember him being gone for long stretches. I have no idea how he juggled that, but well done.

Also speaking of storylines I would have liked to have seen, I always thought it would have been interesting for Eli and Alicia to get involved, especially after Will died. It’s not because I ever felt like the two characters had any crazy sexual tension between them or anything, I just thought it would make for good drama. How would Eli who had always been so devoted to Peter and determined to make sure nothing hurt him politically including making sure his marriage stayed intact at least to the public eye dealt with falling in love with Alicia. I guess we’ll never know.

1. Kalinda Sharma

Kalinda was always my favorite character on the show, and I super sad to have her written out at the end of season 6. Given whatever blood feud occurred between Julianna Margulies and her such that they didn’t appear on screen together for multiple seasons, I’m surprised that they kept her around for that long. It seems insane that the production of an entire TV show would have to be done in such a way that those two actresses would never have to work together, but I guess that’s what happened. I of course saw a lot of people talking about this prior to watching the show so I expected it to bother me more than it did. There were long stretches in earlier seasons why they didn’t appear together much especially after it came out that Kalinda slept with Peter, so it didn’t seem to be anything particularly new that Kalinda was more involved with other characters on the show than Alicia. I never really cared and wasn’t super invested in the two of them being friends or anything, so I wish they had managed to keep her around for one more season. I was bummed that she didn’t get to show back up in the finale, though having watched it there wasn’t really any opportunity for her to. I mean Cary barely even appeared in it.

All in all it was a very good series and I’m glad I finally watched it. The final seasons didn’t work much for me and I didn’t care for the finale at all. I didn’t think trying to bookend the beginning of this show with the end worked in this case. I know a lot of series do it, but no one is nostalgic for an opening scene where a disgraced wife is standing by her jerkhole of a cheating husband. At that point in the series though I didn’t much care anymore. Like many series before it the first 4 or 5 seasons were wonderful, but the end sadly colored my love for it a little bit. If you haven’t watched it yet I would definitely recommend it though.

 

Round House Theatre Gala with Cristin Milioti May 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — dwhren @ 10:10 am

Last night I attended the Round House Theatre’s Gala concert with Cristin Milioti. The Round House Theatre is a non-profit theatre in Bethesda, Maryland and this was their annual fundraiser. My friend Heather did some costume design work for them on one of their shows earlier in the season so she got a comped ticket and was able to get a second one for half price. She graciously invited me and we split the cost of that ticket so we each got one for 1/4 of the price which made it very reasonable. Sorry Round House Theatre I certainly wasn’t helping you raise any funds last night, but I enjoyed myself.

There was a cocktail hour before the performance, so we stood around and mingled a little and Heather caught up with some of her theatre friends from around the area while I stood there and smiled and nodded. I’m not good at small talk anyway, so I’m happy to just stand around and listen to other people talk.

The actual event started with a three song set by the winner of the Bernard Ebb Songwriting Award, which this year was Justin Jones. He was a sort of indie country singer. I enjoyed his songs. After that there was a live auction that was definitely for people who live a very different lifestyle than I do. I wonder what it would be like to be able to bid on things for thousands of dollars. I’m sure I’ll never know. The biggest auction item of the evening was for 2 tickets to see Hamilton along with a backstage tour by the set designer and a meeting with Daveed Diggs. That one went for $10,500. I’m sorry to say I’m not the one with the winning bid.

The main part of the evening was a performance by Cristin Milioti who originated the role the Girl in Broadway’s Once, a show I could not adore more. I got to see her in it and she and the show were amazing. If you’re not a Broadway person you may know her as the titular mother in How I Met Your Mother. I was convinced after so many years of build-up that they would never be able to find someone to make the mother as great as she was made out to be, but then they miraculously did. Cristin Milioti was pretty much the only good thing about the final season of that show and every episode she wasn’t in was awful. I’m still bitter about how that show ended, but I digress. She was also starred in the second season of the TV show Fargo, so my point is you may know who she is even if you don’t think you do.

Unlike other concerts by Broadway performers that I’ve been to she didn’t really sing many Broadway songs. She sang a song from Follies and “Gold” from Once. The rest of the show she pretty much sang sort of indie rock songs from people like Aracade Fire, Bon Iver, Fiona Apple, and Radiohead. For the Radiohead song she actually played the piano, which I know she did for Once, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting given this podcast episode about how she had to cram to learn how to play in order to audition for Once. I guess she did learn to play more than just getting by for the show.

I’m not sure how well the set list might have gone over with the older VIP crowd who probably didn’t know any of those songs and were expecting some Broadway tunes, I really enjoyed her performance. She was very funny. She talked about each song before she sang it and just seemed very down to earth and fun. I wish you could see in the picture I have, but with that black dress she’s wearing you had on a pair of white sort of old-school Run-DMC Adidas sneakers. She said she had a pair of high heels to wear, but she’s tired of wearing high heels and she can’t play the piano in them anyway so she didn’t wear them. So that was her non-apology for wearing the sneakers.

After the performance there was a dessert reception and open bar. I have no idea if Cristin Milioti was contracted to be out mingling with the crowd after or not, but she was. One never knows about these things. I was at some NPR thing where Fred Armisen stuck around and talked to everyone even though he was only contracted to do it with the VIPs before the show, so although obviously someone knows if she was obligated to do it I don’t. At any rate even if she was technically being paid for it, she seemed very happy to be doing it. We were sort of standing near where she was talking to everyone, so I was watching her for a very long time while trying to sort of ease my way in to talk to her. I didn’t make a bold enough move because I am not good at these things so I eventually got cut off by a large group of VIPs and then she sort of wandered off to eat some of the dessert. But because Heather is awesome and knows people at Round House she got someone to ask Cristin to come take a picture of us, which she very graciously did. So I got to say hi and stupidly gush over how much I loved her in Once, which is why I generally avoid doing this stuff because I just feel like an idiot without anything real to say. She was very nice and very sweet to me. It was a great night, and I’m very glad Heather thought of me when she got the tickets.

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