Monday, October 8, 2018

Concert Bucket List Achieved!

I have a concert bucket-list like most people. I've had the chance to see Paul McCartney, Billy Joel and Elton John, which were definitely on the list. But there was one last man on that list, that I didn't think I'd get the chance to see. That was Phil Collins. Because of issues with his health over the last few years, he vowed he was done touring.

But earlier this year, word finally came that he'd be back on the road this fall. Thankfully, I'm pretty quick on the keyboard when it comes to buying tickets. And I'm happy to say he was unbelievably amazing! I enjoyed every moment of the concert, and he hasn't lost a step with his voice.

I was a little taken aback to see him appear on stage with a cane. I knew he had issues with his hearing, but I don't think I knew he had back issues. So the fact he'd be sitting the entire evening was a little upsetting. However, even sitting, he managed to kill it. He chatted a bit, and shared a few stories that were fun. But mostly he sang the songs everyone loved and had been waiting to hear. 

Now, I suppose I'm just waiting for him to realize how wonderful he is at touring, so he'll pop back around this way again soon! And maybe then, he'll sing No Son of Mine - which is a Genesis song, but dude, he sang other Genesis songs! Not that I'm bitter in the least... : )

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Art All Around

Because I'm always on the lookout for something ridiculous to focus my time on, I'm participating in the #ShowYourArt2018 challenge on Instagram for the Americans for Art foundation. Each day they provide an artsy prompt and you're supposed to post a picture that contains art with that theme. It's been fun to realize that there is in fact, art all around us at all times of the day. All 6 photos I've shared so far have been from my travels in the last year. I haven't had to work hard to find any at all. 

When so many arts programs are being cut in schools, it's super fun to focus on the beauty and art in the world that's not huge or extravagant. It simply is, and that's the part that matters. So here goes, here are the first 6 artsy days of my life.

Day 1: #Blue - I happened upon this beautiful sculpture in San Antonio as I was wandering around trying to waste time before my flight home. It turns out I'd inadvertently wandered into the Instituto Cultural de Mexico. They have beautiful sculptures and pieces of art all around the building to see before even entering the museum.

Day 2: #Transportation - This beautiful boat is the very same boat I took a sunset cruise on in Mystic Connecticut. Isn't she gorgeous?! 

Day 3: #TheWordART - This one was a little difficult, because most art isn't labeled as such. However, the Instituto Cultural de Mexico came to the rescue again! 

Day 4: #RuralArt - This is my favorite country store in Pennsylvania. It's called Dusty Treasures, and each year before Christmas I travel here to buy a few more snowheads for my collection.

Day 5: #Education - This school photo was taken in Port Isaac, Cornwall. You may wonder why, then is the school called Portwenn. Well, each season of Doc Martin is filmed in Port Isaac, and on shooting days, the entire town turns into Portwenn (the fictional town where Doc and his friends live.) No stars of BBC were seen that day, but lots of fun easter eggs from a show I love were spotted.

Day 6: #Animals - This guy sits outside my favorite place in Mystic, CT - Bank Square Books. I was super happy to see him on my first trip there a few years ago, and just as excited to see him still watching over the shop, this past summer!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Why I'm Angry

We are a few hours away from the confirmation of a judge who could potentially set women's rights back decades. Say what you want, but whether you're Republican or Democrat, that should make you angry.

Congressmen and women have repeatedly attacked a victim of sexual assault and shown they have no respect for actual justice. They only seem to care about a partisan agenda. 

Throughout this process, Dr. Ford has shown unbelievable poise and strength. She sat for hours as the committee grilled her about an event in which she was the victim, barely flinching, while Judge Kavanaugh raised his voice, snapped at members of the committee and showed visible anger that he was being subjected to even the slightest hint of scrutiny.

Removing a possible sexual assault from the equation of Judge Kavanaugh's record (something his supporters seem all to eager to do), he's repeatedly lied to the committee (which has been proven by fact checking his testimony) and has shown he is incapable of being unbiased, by attacking democrats and the Clintons in his speech to Congress. 

When at last there was a hint of justice in the form of an FBI investigation into these events, even that was tarnished by the strict sanctions placed on who should be questioned. In 3 days, the investigation was complete and almost a dozen witnesses weren't contacted by the agency.

Nominating this man to the highest court in the land has shined a light on everything that is wrong with politics in 2018. The world is watching as our elected officials are attacking each other, and bowing to what will get them votes rather than the greater good.

I'm almost positive the vote tomorrow will confirm Kavanaugh to the bench and when that moment comes, it will also confirm what most have believed for a long time. Women's rights come second to men's. No matter how many times this is denied, the actions of this committee reaffirm it completely. When he is given this position, women will have lost any parity we've gained in the last 100 years. And that moment will be a travesty for American politics and America as a whole.

This is why I'm angry. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Where to Go?

Tonight I went to an evening presented by two travel agents. They scheduled 3 different travel companies to come and chat with people about trips and tours their companies offered. It was really interesting to hear about the trips that were out there. What wasn't so fun was to hear about the prices of these trips. It's unbelievable how expensive these things are.

The majority of these trips were group tours. Now, I'm all about a food tour or a walking tour, but taking a gamble on a big trip just sounds risky. What if you and your group don't see eye to eye? What if a serial killer (probably unlikely...) is in your group? What if you get stuck with a bunch of boring non-food lovers that complain all the time? I mean I know taking chances is a good thing, but if I'm going to pay all that money, I want to have fun with people I know I like.

Ironically though, the coolest trips were the ones with the crazy group travel company. So now I'm more confused than ever. If I had a bottomless font of money, I'd be good to go. I'd take all the trips, all over the world. But unfortunately, the Lottery has not been kind to me yet. So I'm stuck trying to decide where to go. I suppose there are worse problems to have...

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Revisiting 'The Band's Visit'

A few months ago, I saw The Band's Visit after months of hearing what a beautifully lyrical show it is. And at the time, I liked it a lot. But it wasn't exactly what I had expected. Most of the reviews I had read said that the show is like "being inside a poem." They went onto say that the show was one of the most beautiful shows they've seen in quite some time. 

Now, like I said, I enjoyed the show, but it wasn't as beautiful as everyone made it out to be. It was small and compact, with not a lot of glitz and glamour. Those are the types of shows I enjoy most. And the cast is amazingly talented. They all work so well together, and they each fit their characters perfectly. The music was beautiful, and fitting for the story of an Egyptian band accidentally spending the evening in an Israeli town. The use of Hebrew and Egyptian throughout, and the casting of actors of Middle Eastern descent, made me love the show even more.

However, I didn't see the poetry the reviewers mentioned. In my opinion, the main storyline worked well, but the other smaller stories seemed disjointed. It deserves the awards its won, but it's definitely not on my Top 10 list. 

Though, in the time since I've seen the show, I've had the chance to hear some of the music on multiple occasions thanks to my incessant listening of Sirius Broadway. Each time I hear "Papi Hears the Ocean" or "The Concert", I like them more and more. Then tonight, I heard "Answer Me" and I realized just how perfect the show is. "Answer Me" is a song sung by one character who is waiting for his girlfriend to call him. In the show, each time you see this character, he's standing in front of the same payphone waiting for her to call. 

The moment I heard the song this evening, I was transported to Israel and could see the set and the character and even the turning of the stage turntable in my mind. Just a few notes of the song took me back to that theatre. That's what I feel is the best indication of the success of a musical - its ability to transport the audience to another place entirely.

So all of this being said, what do I know? Apparently The Band's Visit is as truly amazing as everyone says. Sometimes, those reviewers really know what they're talking about.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Terrapin Thoughts

This afternoon, as I wandered around University of Maryland's campus getting very lost, I realized it's so much larger than I thought it would be. As a Towson University grad, I thought I knew large schools. But UMD is something else entirely. It's like its own little city. While I didn't enjoy finding myself in one building when I was supposed to be in another (thank goodness for nice Plant Studies students who point you in the right direction!), I did enjoy being on a campus again.

What I really loved about seeing UMD's campus was the diversity. I must have seen a thousand students wandering around between classes, and every single one looked different. There were all shapes and sizes and nationalities. I've always known that UMD had a big reach, but I didn't realize just how big. When people in society are judging others for their race or the country they were born in, it's refreshing to see an environment that embraces those changes.

UMD really is a beautiful place and I very much hope I get a chance to see a bit more of it!

Monday, October 1, 2018

September in Review

September was a very busy month, full of birthdays, fun outings and lots and lots of writing. Yet, not a lot of theatre, reading, or traveling. It's a conundrum really...

September Reads

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes: While I agree that young adults should learn about September 11, I felt that this book told the tale a bit too harshly.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly: This was another tough read. I liked it because it promoted the use of imagination and storytelling, but it was a little harsh for middle grades.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling: I love, love, love this book! It teaches kids about disability and how people with disabilities are often viewed. It also helps kids to understand Tourettes better. And it's a super fun tale of mystery. It's perfect for all ages!

Campaign Widows by Aimee Agresti: I haven't quite finished it yet, but I am liking it. It's sort of Inside DC Politics + Chick Lit all rolled into one. I'm actually reading it for something fun coming up on Our Community Now. Be on the lookout : )

September Travels

September was a fairly low key month in terms of travel. I took only one trip, to the usual place - New York City. Even that trip was not all that exciting - though we did eat some fabulous food. Any day that includes Dim Sum and Ramen, and a trip to the theatre is pretty darn fabulous in my opinion. 

I did do a little traveling within Maryland to Havre de Grace (home to the best candy shop ever - Bomboy's Candy) and Chesapeake City (home of a great hangout right on the water - Chesapeake Inn), but that's about all. Thankfully, the big trip is in October, so yay for that!

September Eats

As I mentioned above, the very best thing I ate this month was an enormous amount of chocolate from Bomboy's Candy in Havre de Grace. Bomboy's is a family run chocolate shop, that hand makes all sorts of deliciousness. My favorites are the marshmallow fluff chocolates and Sea Salt Caramels. I wouldn't recommend going though, unless you want to consume an entire box of chocolates. So darn yummy!

September Shows

September was pretty slow on the show front as well. Many of the local theatres ended their season in the summer, so I had a bit of a theatre break this month. I did manage to see Popcorn Falls in New York. The show was directed by Christian Borle and was fabulous! As much as I loved it, I would have liked to have seen Christian actually in the show though.

For BroadwayWorld, I saw Dancing at Lughnasa. The Irish play at Everyman Theatre was beautiful, and heartbreaking. Again, Everyman knocked it out of the park!

September Moves

As much as I enjoy writing for BroadwayWorld, I wanted to branch out to write about something different than theatre. I came across two sites on Facebook that were looking for writers and decided to apply. As of September 30, I'll be writing for and Our Community Now. Mostly, for both sites, I'll be covering events happening here in Annapolis, as well as Maryland, DC and Virginia. I can decide on what I want to write about and go for it for the most part. I'm excited to branch out a bit, while still handling theatre reviews and critiques. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

30 Days + 30 Posts = Success!

Sometimes September 29 in Maryland is as gorgeous as this!
On the very first day of September, I gave myself a challenge. I wanted to write 30 posts in 30 days. And I'm happy to say that I actually succeeded! While not every post was cutting edge or even terribly interesting, I wrote and that was the important part. The more I write, the easier it becomes. 

I realized I liked trying out new things because I had to. Sometimes, I get inside my head and if the idea isn't perfect, I just let it go. But when I need to post something, I just go with the idea and see what comes out of my brain. I kinda love that! It also allows me to see things more creatively. What may just be a fabulous television show, or delicious meal, can turn into a really great story or at the very least a somewhat interesting story.

So I'm going to try to keep up the streak for the next 31 days. At some point, I'm going on vacation, so I may be a little too busy having fun to write, but I'm going to try. Mostly, because as annoyed as I am by writing sometimes, I found that it's kinda fun too!

Saturday, September 29, 2018

An Evening with Chris Jackson

Aside from Lin, my very favorite member of the original Hamilton cast is Chris Jackson. And tonight I finally had the chance to see him in concert. I just love his personality and of course that gorgeous voice of his, so I was very excited to see him in a more informal setting. Obviously, he knocked it out of the park.

His concert was seemingly off the cuff. He would sing a bit, then chat about a singer he liked or anecdotes about his family or Broadway. He's so sincere, and seemed to be blown away by the fact that he was performing at the Kennedy Center. It was sweet to see him get as excited as we were to see him.

He chose a wide variety of songs to sing, such as classics by Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Harry Belafonte. Those were most of the ones I knew. He sang quite a few others that I'd never heard before, but they were no less fun. He even ended the show with a snappy version of "Happy" by Pharrel Williams. All in all, I liked his choices and they worked well with his voice.

However, I have one complaint, and based on the comments in the ladies room after, it's the same complaint everyone seemed to have. He didn't sing anything from In the Heights or Hamilton. After 90 minutes of not singing "One Last Time", I thought for sure he'd encore with it. Afterall, it's almost made to be the last song of a concert. It's perfect and he sings it perfectly. But I was wrong. He encored with a reiteration of the difficulties everyone has had this week, and sang a religious song that helps him through. While a lovely thought, we all pretty much wanted at least a little Hamilton.

But all in all, he's a fantastic performer. He's personable and a great storyteller. His genuineness comes through in everything he does, and you can't help but smile your way through!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Top Shows of the Season

Last season, my three favorite shows on network television - because I'm cheap and don't have any streamers except Netflix - were This is Us on the drama side and Speechless and Will & Grace for a tie on the comedy side. Even though I avoid anything that makes me cry, I'm obsessed with This is Us. The storytelling is innovative and creative, and I've never seen a cast so talented and that gels so well together. It's a beautiful show that makes me cry every episode, and I'm still chomping at the bit every week to see something new.

As for the comedies, Speechless is the perfect family comedy, set around a family coping with a child with a serious disability. What's perfect about it is the storyline doesn't revolve around his disability. The family is a normal American family, who just happens to have a son incapable of speaking. It's so much funnier than I'm making it sound. Once again, the cast gels perfectly and a show that advocates for the underdogs is a welcome distraction. In the case of Will & Grace, I was obsessed 20 years ago, and I'm obsessed now. If they were funny then, they're uproarious now. Everything about the show is perfectly intact this time around, and the characters will never not make me laugh out loud.

While, I will still be obsessed with these three shows this season, each year new shows get added to the obsession list. Even though the season just started this week, I think I've already found them. On the drama side, I'm already hooked on A Million Little Things. It's not hard to see why I like this show. It's basically This is Us + Friends - Family. So far it's dealt with suicide, depression and cancer all in a very believable way. These topics aren't over-dramatized for effect. It's honest and heartbreaking. And the cast is amazing. It's too early to tell, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed for at least a full season, hopefully many more.

On the comedy side, I predict Single Parents will be my go-to this season for a smile. When a character talks about their "moosh" - as in all the super sweet parts of their personality, I'm already pretty hooked. Because I have way too much "moosh" and I tend to let it out a lot. Though the adults are very, very funny, the kids may be the real stars in this very funny sitcom. They are adorable and have perfectly millennial personalities. After the events of today, it still made me smile, so I'm sure it'll continue to do so throughout the season.

Of course there are others, because in Maryland it's very cold in the winter, so I spend a lot of time on my sofa stressing over the lives of fictional NCIS agents and lawyers. But as long as I have these 2 new loves, and my 3 loves from last season, I'm all set for the television season! Who needs streamers anyway?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Theatre Therapy

Today was not a good day by any means. It was pretty rough for everyone across the country. I found myself tied to the television, unable to look away at the horror show while shouting at the television set. Note to anyone thinking of taking a sick day, do so when a brave victim isn't being put on trial by a bunch of old men who'd rather question her memory than question the man she's accusing. It's a bit less infuriating and you may actually get some rest.

Anyway, this evening, instead of continuing to shout into the void, I went to the theatre. I saw Dancing at Lughnasa at Everyman Theatre. I focused on the words of Brian Friel. I marveled at the beauty of the stage. I watched the little choices the actors made. I questioned choices the characters made. I thoroughly enjoyed a beautiful play.

In other words for 2 and a half hours, I forgot about the confirmation hearing of the arrogant he who should not be named. I let that anger and sadness go, and completely focused my energy on the piece of theatre I was seeing. And it was pretty darn great! That's the best part of going to see a show. No matter what show you see, you're transported into far away lands, that have nothing to do with your current situation. So for a short window of time, you can forget what troubles you and completely immerse yourself in the world on a stage.

If ever you're having a bad day, I highly recommend some theatre therapy. It's entertaining and educational and you won't lose your voice from shouting at people on a TV that can't hear you...  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Very Quiet Newsday

For the last hour, I've been sitting on my sofa watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel called "Murder she Baked." Please don't judge me, because I'm hardcore judging myself already. I've never actually understood the whole Hallmark movie thing. If I want to watch a mystery, I'll watch a Law & Order rerun. 

Yet, in a day that included a terrifying press conference meltdown by he who shall not be named, a Hallmark movie about a bakery owner who solves a crime, seems like the perfect thing to hold my attention. And while I may be half asleep, I seem to be pretty invested in who exactly committed the murder. So much so, that when I switched over to watch "A Million Little Things", I set the DVR to record the last 30 minutes of the movie. 

*And, for the record, I realize this may have been a super boring post, but know that I did warn you that some days my brain gets blocked. Today is one of those days. So a few paragraphs about a bakery murder is what you get : )

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Change is in the Air

Over the last few months, the national conversation has been dominated by stories of men exerting their power over women. These women have bravely come forward to share their experiences in hopes of helping other women. Yet these women are still told that their feelings are somehow less than a man's.  Today alone, Brett Kavanaugh - the Supreme Court nominee - has been accused by 2 additional woman of sexual misconduct and Bill Cosby has been sentenced to 3 - 10 years for rape. The President and Congress are spreading a message that "boys will be boys" while Cosby's lawyer is saying the women has been convicted of assaulting have "a vendetta" against Cosby.

Seeing what these women have gone through has angered me to no end. I can't fathom what they've gone through, and I just can't understand how their experiences can be questioned while their attackers seem unaffected. The bravery of these women to share their story with the masses has been remarkable to see. However, it's heartbreaking that so many of their stories are so similar. How has this been allowed to happen time and time again in our society? Something needs to change. 

I'm not hear to argue the finer points of politics or law. I just want women to be treated fairly, and I want to help those that haven't been. My message tonight is for anyone that has been affected by harassment or domination, know that you're not alone. Reach out to someone, because there are people and foundations in this world that have your back. 

If you need assistance or you want to get involved in victim advocacy, consider visiting The Joyful Heart Foundation. Their vision is a world free of sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Ode to ALW

In New York this evening, friends, family and pretty much everyone who's everyone in the Broadway community are celebrating Andrew Lloyd Webber's work in Arts education and his 70th birthday (a little late). That's just another of the 3,362 reasons I wished that I lived in New York, but that's an entirely different story. I've written a lot about my love for ALW's work. I have this theory that if you're a musical theatre lover, you're either in the Sondheim camp or the Lloyd Webber camp. I'm planted soundly in the ALW camp.

No offense to Stephen Sondheim, but ALW is the number one reason I'm a theatre-lover today. His work was the first I saw and the first I fell in love with. In elementary school - thanks to the best music teacher ever! - I was introduced to Jesus Christ Superstar. I was in awe of it all. The music is unbelievably good. The original cast is ridiculously talented. And the way it was filmed is just so before its time. I fell hard and fast. Luckily, I have a dad that also loves this masterpiece, so not only do we listen to the music constantly, but we have also shared many different versions of the piece, whether in the theatre, or filmed for television. 

Thanks to ALW's stunning work on Superstar, I became obsessed with his other works as well. Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is so very different from Superstar, but still so fantastic. I listened to both albums on repeat for years and I can still sing them pretty much word for word. While I never was a Cats fan, I can understand why it's iconic and so popular.

Then of course there's Phantom of the Opera, another first for me, because Phantom was the first show I saw on Broadway. Thanks to some super amazing and understanding parents, we sat in the 3rd row of the Majestic and took in every last gorgeous moment of that show. Just as I was thrilled by Superstar, I was completely enthralled by the sheer beauty of Phantom. Between that score, those lyrics and the opulence of the costumes and set, it's perfect in my book. 

Perfection is what I see when I revisit these shows. They still hold the same appeal and place in my musical-loving heart as they did when I saw them for the first time. Lucky for me and millions of other theatre fans that ALW came into our lives. And even luckier still, for me that I had amazing people in my life that shared his brilliance with me!

Happy Birthday Lord Lloyd Webber! I'm eternally grateful that you were born!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Quick Trip to Chesapeake City

I've somehow lived in Maryland all of my life, and have never been to the tiny town of Chesapeake City. Up until a few months ago, I'd never even heard of it, which isn't a huge surprise because I'm not so great with directions. 

While the town may not be a huge tourist destination, there are a few tiny shops and a great restaurant there to keep you busy on a summer afternoon. The shops mainly contain cute little knick-knacks and jewelry. But the shops themselves are in beautiful historic buildings, so even if you're not up for buying things, checking out the architecture is definitely worth it. 

Another fun aspect of the town is that it sits on the Inland Waterway. What seems like a narrow canal, is actually a fairly deep connector for large container ships. I didn't realize that point, until an enormous ship came from behind a house and appeared magically in front of me. The ship looked entirely out of place and it was for some reason so cool to see!

After shopping and ship watching, you most definitely require a drink and some delicious food. That's where the Chesapeake Inn comes in. The Inn has a beachy vibe; all cabanas, decks, and umbrella drinks. We were there on the first week of football season, when the Eagles were playing (apparently those that live so close to the PA line cheer for the Eagles not the Ravens - who knew?!), so the drinks were flowing a bit more than usual.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, and the town was the perfect place to spend an afternoon on the water. While there isn't much more than good food and a few shops, it's the perfect place to spend a beautiful day taking the scenery in Northern Maryland. 

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Happy Birthday Bud!

It's this lady's birthday. She's pretty much the best! She is by far the funniest, silliest and loveliest mom a girl could ever ask for. She is one of my most favorite people in the world. I'm not entirely sure how my dad (who is my other favorite!) and I got lucky enough to have her in our lives, but we're so thankful we did! I'm speaking for him here, but I'm pretty sure he and I aren't quite sure what we'd do without her. Love you bunches bud! Hope you had the absolutely, positively best birthday ever! Because you totally deserve it! Love you to the moon and back! 

PS - Also, as you can see from this photo, we look absolutely nothing alike. : ) BTW, that saying about "Sometimes when I open my mouth, my mother comes out" has never been more true. I'm more like her than sometimes I care to admit, but I can't think of someone better to be like than her! 

Friday, September 21, 2018

State of Online Dating: Epic Fail

About 6 months ago, my boss jokingly told me that she had added my joining eHarmony to her calendar. And if I didn't meet that goal, she was not going to be happy. So after attempting to write a profile - with input from every person in my life, I hit the button and joined the site for a whole year.

Now after being a member for 6 months, I'm giving you an update on how it's all going. Long story, short - it's not. I've decided it's so not my thing. I don't know what it is, but there are no Prince Charmings on that site that like me, whom I also like. For starters, I've been matched with men way out of my radius.

For some reason, the site thinks I want to drive super far to meet my prince for dinner or drinks. Honestly, at one point I had matches in Connecticut, and New York. Now, it's just mostly Virginia and DC. On top of not listening to my radius preferences, they seem to not listen to my thoughts on what I'm looking for in a mate. Supposedly, I'm at least a 97% match with some of these guys, while some smoke or don't want children. I can't for the life of me figure out the algorithm that is supposed to help me find my prince, but whatever it is, I'd say it's failing miserably.

Granted, I don't try very hard on the site. I smile at a few guys, then refuse to open the app for the next week because I'm too nervous to see if they like me back. So, not finding a Maryland-version of George Clooney is not totally eHarmony's fault. But they have a little to do with it. 

Also, their biggest faux pas to date is matching me with a man I used to work with, that literally every one that worked with him, thought he was likely to snap one day. After that, I was pretty turned off, and may have vowed that I'd die alone surrounded by 30 cats. I've come off that ledge a bit, but I'm still thinking I need better ways to meet people. Maybe a book shop speed date event? Where's one of those when you need it?

Thursday, September 20, 2018

No Willpower at the DC Book Fest

A few weeks ago, I attended the National Book Festival in Washington DC. Only intending to purchase a few used books, I was not so pleasantly surprised when I realized this book festival did not have a used book area. What they did have was an entire area devoted to the books of the authors that were speaking that day, all run by Politics and Prose. That meant of course, I needed to at least peruse the bookshop area.

And then since I have absolutely zero will power, it meant that I needed to buy an entire tote bag (Book-themed naturally...) full of very different books than I usually purchase. Since that time, I've read all but 2 of the books, and have varying degrees of feelings for each.

I'll be honest, I purchased Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus specifically because I liked the title. But the story of a young girl who lives a fabulous life with her family, and just so happens to not have any arms, is a story of differences and how people can still live a good life in the face of adversity. As the main character's friend has Tourette's, it's also a great way to introduce young adults to this condition. It's just so fabulous!

On the other hand, I went to the festival specifically to buy Less and hear the author speak. And I've decided while I love the plot line, the book itself is not my cup of tea. A book that was billed as the hilarious story of a writer who chooses to embark on an around the world trip, to get out of going to an ex's wedding, is actually quite a downer. 

Towers Falling is a young adult story that tries to explain what happened in New York on September 11. We're now seeing a generation of children and young adults that weren't born yet in 2001. Just as my generation learned about the attack on Pearl Harbor, this new generation needs to hear about and learn from the attacks of September 11. The way the plot plays out is a bit harsh, but it's an important story that helps to explain why learning about these events is important.

I have this love for Children's books. And when I see new, creative books with a good message for kids, I can't help myself. Each of the 3 I purchased were very different, but each had its own lovely story to tell.

Interrupting Chicken is a perfectly fun bedtime story for any kid. It tells the story of a little chicken who can't help himself and must interrupt his dad whenever he's reading him a story. So fun!

Turning Pages is the children's version of Justice Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography. The message here is if you work hard, and have big dreams, you can do just about anything. Sotomayor's words are beautiful and her story is perfectly inspiring for girls and boys.

The Day you Begin should be read in every single school on the first day. The message of what makes you different, makes you special is so needed. The faster kids can accept these little differences, the quicker they can become who they're meant to be. I LOVED it!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Mad for Mystic

A few years ago, the bestie and I embarked on a trip to New England. We drove up to Connecticut, through Rhode Island, and then onto Boston. I'd never been farther North than New York, so I really enjoyed seeing that part of the country. As much as I loved Boston and Newport, in my opinion, the prettiest city we visited was Mystic, Connecticut.

It's the quintessential New England port city. It's not too big and not too small. And for someone who grew up outside of Annapolis, I felt right at home around all the boats and cute little shops. I just knew one day I'd go back and show off the town I'd fallen for.

I was excited to return this past summer and on this trip, I was the tour guide and was able to show off what I love so much about Mystic.  Though, I'm not sure what that exactly is. 


It may be the boats in the harbor, all coming and going in and out of the waterway. It may be the super cool drawbridge in the center of town, that due to a feat of engineering goes up and down every hour just to show off exactly how amazing its engineering really is. It may be the shops up and down Main Street full of nautical-themed items, as well as all sorts of beautiful handmade knick-knacks. It may be Bank Square Books, which is the coolest Indie bookstore I've ever seen. It may be the ridiculous access to all things seafood - lobsters, crab legs, and clams, oh my!

Or it may be a combination of all those things coming together to create a wonderfully sweet seaport. Any way you look at it, Mystic has a little something for everyone. And it's perfect for a long weekend or a summer escape. Note the emphasis on summer - because as beautiful as it is in July, I can't imagine I'd be sharing the same idyllic thoughts if I'd have visited in January... 

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Ramen Snob

Recently, I've found myself craving Ramen pretty much all the time. Not the stuff that comes in a styrofoam cup and is full of all sorts of preservatives that assures it'll still be good in the year 2172. Nope, I've actually never even tasted that stuff. I want the good stuff. The soup that chefs perfect over many, many years of practice and recipe-tweaking.

A really good bowl of Ramen is deceptively difficult to make. It looks fairly simple - noodles, broth, protein and some veggies. However, the broth - like most broths - is most important. If you don't have good broth, then the Ramen will be just as bad. And a good broth can have dozens of ingredients simmered and boiled to perfection. It's no wonder that few chefs go into the Ramen shop business.

However, a few cooks out there have perfected the technique and choose to serve this unbelievably delicious food to the masses. One such shop is Ivan Ramen in the East Village of Manhattan. I first had this particular Ramen at the Slurp Shop in Gotham Market. Ramen-lovers in the city enjoy Ivan Ramen so much, that demand brought the owners to open to small stall at the market to feed people up town too.

But as we were told by those manning the stall, while the Slurp Shop is good, the flagship is best. We decided to test that theory this past weekend, and we were not disappointed.

We started with 3 appetizers - the Miso corn, Japanese Chicken, and Crispy Eggplant. The Miso corn wasn't my choice, but I actually enjoyed it more than my dining partner. I thought it was savory and buttery - everything you want corn on the cob to be. Of the three appetizers, the Japanese Chicken was my favorite. It was sweet, spicy and garlicky. The miso ranch the tender pieces of chicken are served with is perfect to cool the peppery flavor. I could have eaten a few more plates of the to die for chicken! On the other hand, the eggplant wasn't great. It had a strange texture, that was only crispy on one side. The other sides were soft. And though I couldn't tell you what was in the sauce it was slathered in, I can tell you that it just tasted like butter. I could have skipped it in favor of more chicken.

Then there was the main event. Of the few flavors, we chose to share the Chicken Paitan (did I mention we ate 3 appetizers?!) The bowl was full of diced chicken, green onions, noodles and an egg yolk. We were instructed to break the egg yolk and mix it in, then sprinkle lime juice over the top before eating. It's hard to argue with something that tasted that delicious! It was perfectly seasoned and practically perfect, even without the lime juice (why mess with perfection!?) I was pretty stuffed already, but I just kept eating. Definitely at the top of my list of Ramens!

Now, were the Slurp Shop workers correct in their assumptions? It's complicated. On one hand, Ivan Ramen served me the best bowl of Ramen I've ever had and also some killer chicken. On the other hand, at Gotham Market there's Ample Hills Creamery across from the Slurp Shop for dessert. It's hard to choose, so I'll say it's a tie. Whether I go uptown or downtown, I'm still eating Ramen, so it's a win-win!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Emmy Awards 2018: A Bit of a Bore

I love watching award shows. I love watching shows I love win awards and seeing actors I love all dressed up in beautiful outfits. I even love the speeches and the mostly ridiculous banter of the presenters. However, after just spending 3 hours watching the Primetime Emmy awards, I must say my award show fascination may be slipping away.

For one, it was one of the laziest and non-exciting broadcasts I've seen in years. Even the stage was boring. It's like they heard the show was to be broadcast on a Monday night, and gave up caring about making it fun for the audience.

There were the shows nominated and awards won. I can honestly say I haven't seen an episode of a single thing that won this evening. The only show that was consistently nominated that I watch is This is Us and that lost (still bummed!). The only person I really enjoy, who won an award was Jeff Daniels. I'm sure the rest of the winners and nominees are lovely people, but I've barely heard of the shows they appear on. Maybe it's time to split the awards - Broadcast and Pay-Cable? Just a thought...

And don't even get me started on the hosts and the banter. I missed the opening, so I can't comment. But if the rest of their jokes were any indication, I'd say they weren't exactly up to the challenge of hosting duties. When James Corden appeared to present an award, I found myself hoping he'd just stick around and commandeer the show away from them. At least he'd look like he was having some fun.

All in all, this telecast which was supposed to be a celebration of 70 years at the Emmys was a complete dud. Thankfully, a sweet man decided to break up the monotony and propose to his girlfriend live on stage during his acceptance speech. Thankfully she said yes, and thankfully that livened up the room a bit. But the rest, unfortunately was entirely forgettable...

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Wandering Historic Havre de Grace

Every once in a while, on a positively gorgeous late summer day, you realize that our tiny little state of Maryland has loads to offer.

For instance, the small town of historic Havre de Grace in Northern Maryland. There's a beautiful light house that seems to shine brighter white in the sunshine of the summer.

There's a beautiful waterfront that's perfect for sitting and reading, and snoozing if you're so inclined, where you can watch the boats, and see what may have been an eagle glide past.

And there's the best candy store I've ever been to, where you can buy a pound of the most fabulous homemade chocolates you'll ever get a chance to sample. Seriously though, the candy store is named Bomboy's and if you're ever in driving distance of Havre de Grace, I'd get there fast if I were you!

While Havre de Grace is a complete 180 from the bustle of New York City that I experienced yesterday, it's no less wonderful. I don't recommend adding an entire vacation to the sleepy little town to your itinerary, but a day trip from anywhere in Maryland should be the perfect chance to get a feel for the beauty of small town Maryland.