More Than Meh

A blog about the good things of life.

Outdoors, Friends, Fun: AKA Summer is the Best June 5, 2017

Filed under: Baltimore,Friends,Life — dwhren @ 7:51 am

After a terribly cool, grey, and rainy spring we seem to have finally turned somewhat of a corner and are getting some warmer sunnier weather (of course as I write this it’s supposed to rain and be cooler this week) at least for the past week. It’s been wonderful and has done wonders to improve my mood. Life is just so much more pleasant when the weather is nice enough to do things outside.

The previous weekend there was a 30th birthday party for one of my friends. We got to sit outside on a lovely screened porch and enjoy a firepit out on the patio. I love sitting around a firepit on a summer night.

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The following night one of my friends from college got married at The Elm, which is an event space a few blocks from my house. I was always kind of curious about it, so I’m glad they got married there so I could finally check it out. It was rainy off and on earlier in the day, but it cleared up just in time for them to have their ceremony outside as planned. It was a lovely wedding, and I enjoyed getting to walk there and back. I don’t think I’ll ever go to a wedding closer to the place I’m living than this one.

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On Thursday one of my coworkers and I finally got to try blacksauce kitchen for lunch. I’m a long time lover of their food from the farmers markets and festivals, but I hadn’t yet managed to make it over to the storefront they opened a few months ago. It’s only opened on Thursdays for now and it’s carry out only, so we were waiting for a Thursday when we were both free and the weather was nice enough for us to eat outside. We took our delicious food (blacksauce never disappoints) and ate it on a bench in Sherwood Gardens. It was perfect, at least until the part where we had to go back to work.

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This past Saturday I went down to Georgetown to meet another friend from college who was there for work. We had brunch outside and then wandered around Georgetown for awhile. It was great to catch up with her, and it was nice to walk around Georgetown. It’s been a really long time since I’d been there.

Yesterday my church held its service followed by a potluck brunch outside at the pavilion at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Last year the school that we normally meet at had a water main break and some enterprising person managed to think of and snag the BMI pavilion for our service instead. It worked out so well they decided to do it once every summer. The weather was perfect for it this morning, and it was lovely to sit out and stare at the water and the boats.

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I didn’t get all my steps in earlier in the day, so we went for a walk after dinner. I love that it’s still light enough at 7:30 to go out for a walk. It’s a billion times better than when it gets dark hours earlier in the winter. Everything in this post is why summer is better than winter and why I love it so much.

 

Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture April 14, 2017

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 9:37 am

Last Sunday I went to the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture, which opened last year. Like the other Smithsonian museums admission is free, but at this point you still need to have a timed admission ticket to get into this museum. They generally release blocks of tickets about three months ahead of time and you have to be on top of it to get them because they go fast. My husband managed to snag four tickets back in January for this past Sunday.

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We met up with some of our friends who live in DC. Our tickets were for entry at 11:45. We were in the museum for almost 6 hours until they kicked us out at their 5:30 closing time and I still didn’t feel like I saw everything. I didn’t stop and watch any of the many films throughout the museum, and the further we went along the less I read because I realized I was running out of time.

I’m not sure what time the museum actually opens, but at least when we got there we were able to head straight into the exhibits without waiting in any lines. When we got back up though there was quite a line of people waiting to get in. The history part of the museum is three floors of exhibits underground. You have to queue up to ride an elevator down to the start. They recommend you to use the bathroom as you exit the elevator and they aren’t kidding. It’s the last time you’re going to see a bathroom for awhile unless you backtrack a lot or rush through the exhibit.

The exhibit starts in the 1500s with the beginning of the slave trade and ends around 2008. It covers all the things you would expect from slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, Civil Rights, and more recent issues of race.

After we spent a few hours winding our way through the history exhibits we stopped at the cafe for a late lunch. Like some of the other newer cultural Smithsonian museums the cafe is an extension of the exhibits with the food representing traditional foods from African-American culture. It’s pricy but it was delicious.

After lunch we headed to the exhibits on the upper levels of the museum. The upper levels are more of the cultural parts of the museum with the African-American experience and influence on American cultural institutions. There are exhibits related to sports, the military, television, theatre, film, food, fashion, music, and art. I definitely ran out of time to give all of these their proper due.

There are also some really nice views of the National Mall from the museum.

It is a really well done museum, and if you get the opportunity I highly recommend checking it out. I definitely want to go back again at some point in the future and spend more time in the areas I gave short shrift to on this visit.

 

Self-Reflection in the Time of Trump January 23, 2017

Filed under: Life — dwhren @ 10:48 am

Like many people I have been disheartened since Trump was elected president, but I was overwhelmed with with love, and joy, and hope on Saturday watching women all over the world stand up together to say we won’t keep quiet. We will fight for what we believe in. I was at a conference this weekend and couldn’t make it out to a march, but I was bowled over by the number of women I personally know marching in cities around the country and even in Africa.

The past few months have given me a lot of time to reflect on my life, my beliefs, and what is important to me and what I’m going to do about it. How the Nazis came to power and how so few people did anything to stop their terrible acts is something that has been debated since it happened. As a psychology major I’ve read all those research studies that show how easily people buckle to authority and how easily they stay silent. I long ago, not proudly, acknowledged to myself that had I been living during that time I probably would not have spoken up. I don’t think I would have been a Nazi, but I don’t think I would have fought back either. I have always been someone who doesn’t like to make waves. I go along to get along. So I can definitely imagine myself just trying to navigate through whatever was happening without trying to offend anyone, but in my silence I would have been complicit.

This election rocked my faith to the core. I’ve known for a long time that most quote unquote Evangelical Christians and I don’t see eye to eye on many things, and I often wonder how we are possibly reading out of the same Bible. To see so many Christians not only vote for Trump but declare him a Godly man or God’s anointed to take back their country is just…I really have no words. Despite belonging to a church that teaches nothing but grace, mercy, love, and reconciliation, having a close group of Christian friends who live their faith seeking social justice, and having the wisdom of writers like Rachel Held Evans to remind me I’m not alone, this election still made me stop to ask what am I actually believing in. If the actions of this man are what Christianity is aligning itself with then what kind of God am I putting my faith in?

I won’t say that my heart is 100% healed or that I’ve completely opened it back up to God again, but I can at least hear him calling me in the most likely and unlikely of ways. There have been multiple sermons at my church that I have felt were written just for me in this time. Stuff like that is the likely, but you really don’t expect to have wonderful passages about finding Christian faith and calling the Religious Right he became deeply involved with to task written by a Jewish man inside of his book about creating the tv show “Saved by the Bell”. I also picked up the book “Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome” at the perfect time. It reminded me that people are not God. Religion is not God. I put my faith in something higher.

All this is the long wind-up to a question my friends in my Bible study and I were talking about, which is if you created a hashtag for what you wanted to live out in your life and have God work on you in 2017 what would it be? For me I decided it was #courage. The courage to speak up and to speak out on what I believe. I’m guessing there’s more than one person reading this who has no idea that I’m a Christian. That’s the just stay silent and not say anything when people might disagree part of me. Don’t talk about my faith in places that will cause tension. Don’t talk about all my liberal, progressive beliefs around people that might offend. Now is not the time to stay silent. So I’m trying to be courageous. To open up and speak out even when it makes me extremely uncomfortable.

So I will say to start that I am scared. I am scared of what the next 4 years will bring and how easily we might wind up in places we really don’t want to be. To have the first press conference of Trump’s administration be defending easily disproven lies is frightening. I said before the election on Facebook that the only person Trump cares about is himself. He cares about his ego and feeling powerful. If you’ve listened to anything he said during the campaign, his lies about how big the crowds are at the inauguration should not be a surprise. The fact that there are people who will already defend this lie and claim it to be true all the way from his administration to people in my Facebook feed is truly terrifying to me. If we are already at a place on day one where people will say an easily disproven lie is true, then where are we going to be when the lies aren’t so black and white? I will not stay  silent and let these things pass anymore. I’m claiming the courage to stand up and call out the lies and defend the things I believe in.

After thinking about writing this since Saturday, this morning when I actually had time to sit down and do it I almost didn’t. But at the exact moment I was thinking about backing away and not putting this out there someone from NPR Music tweeted out a story to this song “Quiet” by a singer named MILCK written for the Women’s March. I don’t think it was a coincidence. It was God saying hey you remember that promise of courage you made and asked me to help you with? Well guess what here’s your reminder. Get to it.

Acapella version of part of the song being sung by a group of women during the march.

And the full studio version

 

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.

 

DC Day October 24, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Food,Friends,Life,Music,Pop Culture — dwhren @ 7:54 am

Awhile back my husband, knowing that I like the band The Head and the Heart, pointed out to me that they were going to be playing at D.A.R. Constitution Hall in DC. I had already seen, but decided not to go because I didn’t feel like going all the way to DC and was hoping they would swing back through Baltimore later in their tour as they had in their previous tours. He pointed out to me that he was going to be in DC for a conference that day, so if I decided to get tickets I could come down and meet him and we could go. So I went ahead and bought tickets. Of course two weeks after I bought tickets, they announced a show in Baltimore in December. Looks like I’ll just have to see them twice. Poor me.

Anyway, shortly after buying tickets to the concert my former boss passed away and I saw that the memorial service was going to be in Olney, Maryland the same day as the concert. After looking up where the heck Olney was and realizing it was in DC suburbs, I decided it didn’t make sense to go back home in between. Instead it made more sense for me to drive into DC and spend the afternoon there. So I made plans to do just that.

The memorial service was lovely. They had ten people speak and share stories and remembrances. It was a very fitting tribute to man who was loved by many, and tried to live life to the fullest despite his long battle with MS. He will be missed.

After the memorial service I headed to my friends Alison and Dave’s house. They just bought a house in DC and happily they were free so we could hang out yesterday afternoon. I got to check out their new digs, and spend some time with them. Now that Alison sadly no longer lives in Baltimore I obviously don’t get to see her as often. They still come up this way a lot, but I know once they settle into their DC life more and more I know that drive will seem even less appealing. Alison and I thought about going to a museum briefly, but I had no slept well and was really tired so we decided just to hang out their house until dinner.

One of the problems with D.A.R. is that there is nothing else immediately around it in terms of commercial things like stores and restaurants. Within a mile or so there’s a handful of places, but you still don’t have a very big selection if you want to grab drinks or dinner before a show. I made us reservations at Founding Farmers, which I had heard good things about and is insanely popular based on the number of people waiting to get in there. Perhaps at one point it was amazing and is now just resting on it’s popularity, or maybe it’s just one of those places that has a reputation for whatever reason that it doesn’t really live up to. After waiting almost an hour after our reservation time for our table (normally that would have made me leave a place, but in this case there wasn’t really anywhere else to go), the food was just middling. I’m not sure why everyone was fighting to get in there. At least everything came out fast since we were pressed for time by the time we got to sit. The carrot cake was tasty too.

Because dinner took so long we did miss the first bit of the opening band, Declan McKenna. I didn’t know them going in, and after seeing what I saw of their set I wasn’t really sad that I missed part of it. They weren’t completely terrible like whoever the opening act was the first time I saw The Head and the Heart in concert, but their music didn’t do a whole lot for me.

Last night was the fourth time I’ve seen The Head and the Heart in concert. Once at the Newport Folk Festival and then once on each of the tours they’ve done for their three albums. They always put on an excellent show. Last night was no exception. They obviously played a good chunk of music from their new album, which I really like. They still tend to play a lot from their first album as well, which the crowd eats up. At this point especially for those songs but for some of their more recent material as well, it was really just one big sing-a-long with the crowd. That doesn’t work with every band, but it totally does with them and I was happy to be able to sit there and sing with everyone. I’m already looking forward to seeing them again in December.

 

38th Birthday Weekend June 19, 2016

Filed under: Concerts,Friends,Life,Music,Travel — dwhren @ 5:23 pm

If the rest of my 38th year is as great as my birthday weekend, it’s going to be a fantastic year. My actual birthday was Saturday, but I took work off Friday to use up the rest of my vacation time and give myself a nice long birthday weekend. I started everything off getting to meet up with a good friend from college and her 3 year old daughter. In the time I’ve been in Baltimore she has lived off and on in the Baltimore/DC metro area a few times, but sadly moved away again last summer. She was back in town for a visit this weekend, so it worked out perfectly for us to meet up for breakfast on Friday morning. It was great to see her and the perfect way to start off the weekend.

Friday afternoon my husband and I headed up to Philly for the weekend for a weekend of concerts, which were my birthday present. With the hotel and concert tickets it was an expensive gift, but I’m pretty sure my husband would pay any amount of money for me to buy myself my own gift every year. I’m still waiting on that Christmas present from 2 years ago. Anyway, all the pieces fell into place for a perfect weekend, and the best birthday I’ve had since we got engaged on my 30th birthday.

What seems like forever ago now, The Cure announced that they were going to be playing in NYC on my birthday. I have been dying to see The Cure forever, which my husband knew so he agreed we could go as my birthday present. I didn’t manage to get tickets to that show, which I was sad about at the time but ended up being a blessing. A few weeks later they announced a full North American tour with a stop locally, which I got tickets to so I’ll still get to see them but it freed up my weekend for something else entirely.

The Dixie Chicks announced their first North American tour in a decade with a show in Philadelphia (technically Camden, NJ) on my birthday. I will be out of town for their DC show next week, but I hate that venue anyway so I’m much happier to go to Philly for a show anyway. So I got tickets for that show (I’ll refrain from a long, angry diatribe on the racket that is Ticketmaster and Live Nation being the same company that somehow resulted in me having to pay ticket resellers double face value for lawn tickets the day tickets went on sale via their website when later there wound up being swaths of tickets for sale from them for a show that was not in fact sold out and had people on Stubhub selling lawn seats for $6). Shortly after that they announced that Jason Isbell would be playing on Friday night with Frank Turner opening, so I decided we could make a whole Philly weekend of it. I was a little bummed that the show announced for Merriweather for Saturday night include Chris Stapleton co-headlining with Jason Isbell, but because everything was coming up roses for me a few weeks after I saw that we got notified that Chris Stapleton was added to the bill and the show had been moved to a larger venue. Perfect!

We stayed at the Sheraton Philadelphia Society Hill. Hotel rooms in summer in Philly  are expensive, but I at least managed to find a rate that included free valet parking and free internet. The location also wound up being completely perfect for us. We were able to walk to Festival Pier for the concert Friday night, and while the Saturday concert was across the Delaware River in Camden, New Jersey there was a ferry we could take across the river a block from our hotel. I was really glad I did my research and saw that parking and traffic at BB&T Pavilion were terrible and cost $30 and found the ferry over as an alternative. My only complaint about the hotel was that our room overlooked I-95 so we had a lot of traffic noise. I’d definitely stay there again as long as they could guarantee me a room on a different side of the hotel.

I’ll write about the concerts themselves in separate blog posts since this entry is getting long already, and I know most of you don’t care to read about the concerts anyway. Saturday during the day we met up with my friend Erin and her family. They live just outside the city, so it was nice to get to see them while we were up there. They suggested meeting up at Spruce Street Harbor Park, which was again conveniently located just a few blocks from our hotel. It’s a little park along the waterfront that for the summer they put all these food stands, games, hammocks, bars, and seating in. Our original plan was to grab something from one of the food stands for lunch, but there wasn’t anything veggie friendly for my husband so we wound up eating inside the Hilton hotel restaurant, which was right there. After that we hung around in the park for awhile, then wandered around the city for a little bit and found a flea market to peruse. I haven’t yet mentioned how wonderful the weather was the whole weekend, but it was so it was a great day to spend outside with them.

It really was the perfect weekend. All the pieces fell into place, and I had such a wonderful time seeing music I love played live and getting to spend time with some wonderful friends and their great families. I wish every birthday could be this good.

 

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.