More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Thanksgiving 2016 November 26, 2016

Filed under: Family,Life,Movies,Travel — dwhren @ 6:52 pm

For the past several years we’ve done Thanksgiving in New York with my husband’s family and Christmas in Arizona with my family. This my sister is going to her in-law’s in Boston for Christmas, so we decided to switch things up and go out there for Thanksgiving. The only way to make the trip affordable was to take vacation time on Monday and Tuesday and fly out the Saturday before and then come back the day after Thanksgiving.

My nieces are 8 (as of December 13) and 4 1/2, which are really fun ages. I spent a lot of time playing with them and thank god didn’t have to play Barbies one single time. The only time they were playing Barbies while I was there my youngest niece told me to go away and I gladly did.

On Tuesday while my husband and sister were working and my nieces were at school, I went on a hike in Catalina State Park with my parents. We did the Romero Pools trail, which was definitely one of the more difficult trails I’ve hiked between the rise in elevation and how rocky it was. We were kind of lame and turned back probably about .2 of  mile before we got to the pools. Once we reached the top of the ridge and realized we were going to start going down the other side of the mountain and thus were going to have to hike back up it again we decided to turn around. We had already hiked 5 miles, so I didn’t feel too bad about it. My husband, father, and I also did a quick 3 mile hike nearby where they live on Thanksgiving morning. It was a piece of cake compared to the other one we did.

Wednesday we took the kids to see Moana (or rather I really wanted to see Moana and suggested that we go). I enjoyed it and could definitely tell that Lin Manuel Miranda wrote the music for it, which was really the best part of the movie in my opinion.

We had a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for which I was roped into making a pumpkin carrot cake. Since I’m more likely to make a cake than a pie, I decided to make straight up pumpkin pie my dessert and only tried a bite of the cake. It pretty much tasted like carrot cake for the most part, which is not a bad thing since it’s one of my favorite desserts. I’m not sure I’d bother with the pumpkin version of it again. There was lots of other delicious food and fun times with my family and friends.

It was a fun trip and it went by way too fast.

 

Me in NYC November 7, 2016

Filed under: Family,Theatre,Travel — dwhren @ 9:15 am

As is probably apparent by now I travel up to New York City fairly frequently. Usually I’m going up with my husband and we’re visiting his sister, her husband, and our niece and nephew. We usually take in a show while we’re there too, but the rest of our activities on those trips are rightfully dictated by what will keep two small children entertained. If I happen to be there not visiting family I’m usually doing the slightly crazy trip to see a show with friends in which we go up in the morning, get up to the city in enough to time grab lunch, see a matinee, grab dinner, and then head back to Baltimore. There’s not really much time to do anything else in those ventures. So there’s just a lot of things that the city has to offer that I never have a chance to do when I’m there.

Now that my husband’s office is technically in NYC even though he works from home it now makes sense to occasionally go up so he can go into the office and I can tag along and play by myself in the city. Our holiday plans got all switched around this year, so we’re not going to NYC for Thanksgiving like we normally do. I really wanted to see Sweet Charity, which has a limited run, so I told my husband we needed to go up another weekend in November. He said if that’s the case let’s go on a Friday so I can go into work and you can do whatever you want.

After I derided it in my post about London, New York decided to finally offer me a beautiful fall weekend while I was there. We took the train up on Friday morning. The first thing on my agenda was an exhibit at the New York Public Library’s Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center about shows that have won both Tony Awards and Olivier Awards (London’s West End equivalent to the Tony’s). Since the weather was nice I decided to walk up to Lincoln Center from Penn Station.

The exhibit was great. It’s not crazy huge since it’s in a library not a museum, but I’m glad I went. They had lots of things from shows including footage from them and interviews with actors playing on televisions, lots of costumes, stage notes, production designs, etc. If you like theatre and you have a little time to kill I’d recommend it.

After that my plan was to head over to the Upper East Side to the The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which I don’t think I’ve ever been to. Though it’s possible I went as a kid with my family and I don’t remember. Getting there involved walking across Central Park, which wound up being slightly more complicated than I anticipated. The New York marathon was this weekend, and knowing nothing about it I managed to walk across the park at pretty much the exact spot where the finish line for the course is. This was Friday and the actual marathon wasn’t until Sunday, but apparently there were some kind of kids events going on Friday and a ton of kids were running to the finish line right when I got there. Getting through the crowds to get on the opposite side of the finish line so I could continue across the park was really annoying.

My plan was to eat lunch before going into the museum, and I almost stopped and outdoors at a Le Pain Quotidien in the middle of the park. They had a nice little patio I could have sat on and stared out at the park on a lovely fall day, but I decided I would prefer to find something non-chain to eat at. Big mistake! I wound up coming out of the park much farther north than I anticipated due to my race detour, and there was pretty much nothing around in terms of places to eat. I had one option, which was E.A.T., which I guess is fairly well known restaurant that I had no idea about and in retrospect I was annoyed at having to eat at. If there was literally anything else around I probably would have gotten up and walked out after I was handed the menu and I saw the prices. Those fancy pants Upper East Side New Yorkers might think it’s reasonable to pay $24 for a grilled cheese sandwich, but I do not. Aside from a small bowl of soup that cost $12 everything else that was literally just some regular types sandwiches were $22 or more. At least the soup came with a basket of bread, so it did wind up amounting to a decent lunch even though I was annoyed by the whole experience.

I spent the next four hours wandering around The Met, which is really, really large. I didn’t even come close to seeing everything. I specifically wanted to see the exhibit they had on Jerusalem: 1000-1400, which had a lot of artifacts from the city in that time period most of them having to do in some way with the three major religions that consider that city their Holy Land. There were a lot of illuminated manuscripts, but also all kinds of other stuff including pieces of buildings, weapons, pottery, tapestries, and other artwork. The other exhibit I didn’t set out to see but wandered into was Valentin de Boulogne, who was a French painter in the 1600s. Turns out I really like his work, so I’m glad I got to see that exhibit. I didn’t make a good plan for the rest of the museum, and I always get so confused in museums because there are entrances and exits on 3 or 4 sides of every room and I never know which way to go. So I saw a random amalgamation of things ranging from Egyptian artifacts, literal rooms from houses and hotels with fancy furniture and decorations that were removed from their original locations and installed in the museum, and I think most of the modern art.

After the Met, I met up with a friend who lives in New York for dinner before meeting up with my husband to see Sweet Charity. It’s not particularly one of my favorite shows, but this off-Broadway production is starring Sutton Foster who I really like. I knew from having seen a previous production of the show that there were a lot of instrumental interludes in the music that involved a lot of dancing. In my memory, which we have recently established is very faulty, I thought there was a lot of tap dancing which I love and which Sutton Foster is great at (I probably shouldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched videos of her tap dancing in Anything Goes on YouTube). I don’t know if this production is just different or I remembered wrong about what kind of dancing was in the show the last time I saw it, but there was only one really short tap number this time though of course still lots of other dancing. I’ve never been to an off-Broadway show before, so that was kind of fun and it was nice to be in such a small house and be so close to the stage. I’ll never be rich enough to afford tickets that close on Broadway, not even in Baltimore really. It’s still not one of my favorite shows, but I definitely enjoyed it more this time than the first time I saw it.

On Saturday we took my niece and nephew to the National Museum of Mathematics, aka MoMath. It seemed like they had a good time, but as an adult I can tell you it’s a pretty lame museum on top of which half of the interactive exhibits were broken. There were an awful lot of out of order signs on things in a place that isn’t all that big to begin with. For the things that did work their signage did not really give very good explanations about what you were supposed to go or what mathematical concept was being applied. I’m glad the kids had fun, but overall I give two thumbs down that museum and would not recommend it. We then had to race back home to get the kids to their swimming lesson on time. After that we took our niece to one of those paint your own pottery places. Then it was pretty much time for us to catch our train home. All in all an excellent couple of days in New York doing some things I don’t normally do.

 

Happy 8th Anniversary to My Husband October 18, 2016

Filed under: Family — dwhren @ 7:58 am

Eight years ago today my husband and I got married after dating for four years. He’s a great husband, and I’m happy every day that we’re together. I love the life that we’ve built together, and I look forward to many more years sharing it with each other. Love you my dear. Happy anniversary!

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New York Weekend October 2016 October 5, 2016

Filed under: Family,Travel — dwhren @ 2:42 pm

As you may have guessed based on my previous post about Waitress on Broadway, we spent the past weekend in New York. My husband wanted to go to World Maker Faire, which is at the Hall of Science in Queens. I debated back and forth about whether or not I wanted to join him not only because the weather couldn’t decide if it was going to rain or not. I kept looking at the forecast every day leading up to the weekend and it changed every day. I didn’t know what else I was going to do, and I’d never been to any of the boroughs other than Manhattan, so I decided I might as well go. Luckily the weather did wind up cooperating and although it was still gloomy, it didn’t really rain.

If you don’t know what Maker Faire is imagine an extremely large science fair with lots of people showing off their innovations. Most of it seemed like individuals or small companies, but there were some larger companies promoting stuff there as well. There were a billion 3-D printers there. I’d really only seen the printers that print fairly small things, so some of the ones able to print pretty sizeable things were pretty cool and make it seem like that technology might eventually be worth something.

My favorite part of the Maker Faire was the first thing we stumbled across. Leave it to me to find the one booth where they’re talking about music. It was essentially in a booth sponsored by Intel promoting their music creation stuff, but they were doing an interview with Grand Wizzard Theodore, who created the DJ scratching technique. He talked about how he wound up creating it and the Netflix show The Get Down. They had some turntables out where you could try scratching yourself. I didn’t because I said I didn’t need to try to know I would be terrible at it. I’m not sorry I went this year, but I don’t forsee needing to join my husband if he chooses to go in future years.

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Sunday we took the niece and nephew to the Children’s Museum of Art, which was a really cool place. Although there’s some existing art work on display it’s really a place for kids to go make art themselves. I gather that they have different themes that the days art centers around. There was one area that space related in that you were supposed to use “space junk” to create a satellite. My husband pointed out that it seemed like where they put all the leftover scraps from other areas, which didn’t seem like a bad theory. The rest of the areas were all related to Argentina.

They have a studio area with a number of different activities. There was one where you could use lots of materials to draw and glue things together to create a city-scape, though my niece went her own way with that and just created a decorative box. There was an area you could paint, one where you could do fashion design, one where you were supposed to do figure drawing based on the skeleton they had hanging there, and one where you were supposed to create art similar to some Argentinian artist.

There was some music and dance thing based on Argentinian music and dance, but we didn’t participate in that. There was a place where you could draw things and then create computer animations based on the figures you created. The theme was Argentinian sports. They also have a clay bar where kids can sculpt things out of clay. They were making animals from Argentina, although my niece again went her own way and chose to make a star fish. The woman helping totally went with it without a second thought and helped her figure out how to create the star fish even though it wasn’t one of the models they had for the day.

There was a little area for kids under 5, but we didn’t go in there since my niece and nephew were too old for it so I’m not sure what was in there. If you have young kids and are in New York I would definitely recommend checking this place out.

After that we wandered into the Houston Beer Hall for lunch. It was a pretty cool little place. It was pretty dead when we were in there, but I imagine it’s quite lively for happy hours and in the evenings. We were curious about the space, so my brother-in-law discovered that it used to be a parking garage for the FBI. Once you knew that you could totally see how it was once a parking garage.

We mostly tent to stick to the Upper West Side and Mid-town when we go visit since that’s where our family and Broadway shows are, so it was nice to venture out into some other parts of the city this trip.

 

Visit from My Nieces June 1, 2016

Filed under: Baltimore,Family — dwhren @ 10:17 am

My sister, brother-in-law, and nieces came out from Arizona to visit for the long weekend. It was the first time they’ve been out here in 4 and a half years. My youngest niece was in utero the last time they were here. I get why it makes sense for us to go out there more frequently than they come here, but it was nice to have them come out here to visit for a change.

They got here on Saturday in the early evening. We walked over to one of the nearby parks. My eldest niece is very keen on the monkey bars right now. I could never really do the monkey bars very well, so I’m very impressed by her monkey bar prowess. The girls were also very excited to meet Tux, the stuffed penguin we always play with over Facetime, in person.

Sunday morning we down to the Inner Harbor and went on the Sea Dog boat ride. My eldest niece saw boats from the plane when they were flying in and said she wanted to go on a boat ride. It’s too bad the Urban Pirates cruise was sold out because I think they both would have loved that. As it was the eldest niece loved the ride and thought it was hysterical when I got completely soaking wet from a big splash, but the 4 year old was not keen on it at all. There were definitely some tears. It was too fast and too loud for her. After the boat ride we went on the carousel, which was much more her speed.

We went to Bo Brooks for lunch because my brother-in-law wanted crabs, but then we got there and they were out of crabs. A crab cake had to do. It was nice to sit outside on their patio anyway. After lunch we came back to my neighborhood and hit up a different playground. My eldest niece was not a fan because it did not have good monkey bars for her. We of course had to get some ice cream from The Charmery while they were here, so we did that after the playground. All the activity must have worn the girls out because the 4 year old fell asleep around 6, which is 3 their time, and wouldn’t wake back up.

Monday we went to the Orioles-Red Sox game. My brother-in-law’s sister lives in Northern Virginia so she came up with a friend to meet us for the game. They’re all from Boston and thus are Red Sox fans, so it worked out that the Red Sox were in town the weekend they were here. It was rather hot and humid at the beginning of the game, but at least we had club level seats so we could take the kids inside from some AC every once in awhile. It also happily didn’t rain like was in the forecast for several days leading up to the game. My youngest niece told me her favorite part of the weekend was the popcorn she ate at the ball game, so I guess she enjoyed it more than the boat ride. The Orioles lost so I was sad, but they were all happy.

We had originally planned to go to the aquarium on Tuesday morning, but my sister decided she didn’t want to spend that much money. We entertained going to the zoo instead, but after 2 hot days out in the sun my sister decided an inside activity would be better. We settled on Port Discovery, which is the children’s museum, instead. We got warned on our way in that they were expecting 350 school kids shortly, so we tried to do everything we could before the place was inundated. It didn’t turn out too bad. We probably didn’t stay quite as long as we would otherwise, but we mostly managed to hit everything before it got too crazy. After leaving the kid’s museum we hit what my niece had deemed the good park one more time so she could the monkey bars before they left for the airport.

It was a really fun weekend and I’m really glad they came. Hopefully it won’t be another 4 years before they make it out to visit again.

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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. Saturday 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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Happy 40th Anniversary to My Parents February 14, 2016

Filed under: Family — dwhren @ 8:22 pm

I’m getting this post in with a few hours to spare.  It’s been 40 years since my parents walked down in the aisle in these snazzy outfits. I know you’re all wishing your wedding clothes were that cool.

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I’m very lucky that after 40 years my parents are still very much in love with each other. They’ve been great role models for a marriage, and I hope mine is as happy as their’s is 40 years from now. Happy 40th anniversary Mom and Dad! Love you!