Friday, December 27, 2013

Favortie Reads of 2013

The best books I read in 2013 in no particular order...

-Dr. Bird's Advice for Sad Poets - By Evan Roskos

-Unwind-by Neal Shusterman

- Nerd Camp-by Elissa Brent  Weissman

-Fur Face- by Jon Gibbs

-Dweeb-  by Aaron Starmer

-Stargirl- by Jerry Spinelli

-The Hero of Ages- (last book in the Mistborn trilogy) by Brandon Sanderson
-The Maze Runner- by James Dashner

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Burst with Pure Joy- Part 2

Since the show was at 3pm, we decided to have brunch before the show so that we could hop on the train and make our way back as soon as the show was over.  We chose Ca Va, a French restaurant, because it was near the theatre and because Waiting for Godot first premiered in 1953 in Paris, so it tied the meal and show together nicely.

The atmosphere at Ca Va could be described as classy cozy.  It was warm, casual, comfortable, and the food was yummy. 
Since it was our big meal for the day, we went with the special prix-fixe menu that came with an appetizer, entrée and dessert for $30.00 per person.
For my appetizer, I chose the chicken meatballs.
They were cooked in a sauce of truffled honey and preserved lemons, and were served in a mason jar, so for me it was already a winner. The meatballs and sauce were absolutely delicious.  The savory meatballs mixed with the citrus, and the sweetness of the honey was heavenly.
For my meal, I ordered the honey roasted chicken with a bacon-Brussels sprout hash.  I happen to love Brussels sprouts, so I was extra excited about the hash.  My chicken and the hash were very tasty. 
My husband got the seared scallops with sweet and sour eggplant.  He let me have a bite of the eggplant and it had a unique flavor that was quite wonderful.  I think I could have eaten an entire bowl of the eggplant. 
  For dessert we both chose the pear and fig tart with vanilla gelato.  It was not that it was not good, but I would have preferred more pear and less figs.  It was super figgy. 

  I should also mention that the coffee was excellent, though I would not have expected less from a French restaurant.
After our brunch, we made our way to the Cort Theatre to see the play. 
When we purchased our tickets a few weeks prior, there were not many available seats left.  There were two seats available in the second row and they were the same price as the seats in the first balcony.  We thought this was a bit suspicious and googled whatever we could find about the layout of the theatre to see if there was something like an obstructed view, but everything seemed fine so we purchased the seats.  When we sat down I could not believe how close we were to the stage. 
  I could have reached out and touched Sir Patrick Stewart and/or Sir Ian McKellen several times. They were right in front of us, together, alive, breathing, talking and dancing!!!  I think they may have even looked at me once or twice, which lead to a whimsical fantasy where backstage they said,
IM: Did you see that lovely red headed girl with the glasses in the second row?
PS: Yes I did.  She seemed to be enjoying the play immensely.
IM: I quite agree. Perhaps we should invite her backstage so she can discuss it with us?
PS: Splendid idea!
(Note: I promise that I am in no way a crazy stalker. It’s just fun to have dreams)
Just a quick synopsis of the play- Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett, is about two men who have been great friends for at least 50 years.  They meet together at a specific place (everyday? It seems like there may be some sort of infinite time loop going on but that is just my guess) to wait for Godot so that Godot can tell them what life is all about. There is no information about who Godot actually is, the characters themselves aren’t even sure.  The play is pretty much about what the two old gentlemen do to pass the time while waiting. The action and dialogue shift from being slapstick comedic, to wittily hilarious, to deep and contemplative, to downright dark and depressing.  In the end the play is up to your own interpretation as far as what it all means. 
The play by itself is fantastic, and when you add four great actors and it is absolutely amazing!  I can only describe the experience of seeing Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen live right in front of me acting together as transcendent.  The play is almost three hours long, but I could have spent eight hours or more watching those two on stage. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about it again.  At one point in the play Patrick Stewart sings and does a little dance and they both do a little soft shoeing a few times during the play (though it is a straight play and not at all a musical). 
I also have to give credit to the other two cast members, Billy Crudup (yes Dr. Manhattan), and Shuler Hensley who also gave wonderful performances.  Out of the entire cast, I think Billy Crudup had the most challenging role to play as Lucky.  The role was quite physically demanding and I spent a good amount of time watching him intently. He never broke character once.  His character is mostly non-verbal, but at one point he launches into an insane mind boggling monologue. I’d like to get my hands on a copy of the play because I would love to see exactly how that monologue is written.
I enjoyed every nanosecond of the play, I was bursting with pure joy the entire time, and it will rank as one of the best experiences I have had ever! 

When we walked out of the theatre, it had just started snowing. Walking back to the train through Times Square in the gently falling snow seemed to be the perfect ending to an incredible day.

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Burst with Pure Joy - New York City part 1

It started with an invitation to a holiday party, my husband’s office holiday party to be exact.  It was going to be at the Hyatt in Morristown New Jersey, which is a bit of a drive from where we live.  The prospect of having to drive for several hours, attend the party, and then spend several hours driving back home did not excite us.
-But what if we stayed overnight? 
-Yes that could be fun, and if we were going to be so close to New York City, why not spend some time in the city the next day?  Then an image popped into my head.  It was the image of Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen crouched in front of a large pile of garbage, pointing and smiling. 
-Wait, weren’t they currently performing in a play, together, on Broadway?  And so was the beginning of one of my most awesome experiences of all time.
We left before noon on Saturday to give ourselves plenty of time.  We took a brief detour to hit the Crate and Barrel outlet in Cranbury NJ.  We love Crate and Barrel stuff, especially when it is on sale and discounted. 
After picking up a couple of small things, we got back on the road again. We arrived at our hotel, The Hamilton Park Wyndham, around 4:30pm.
This is the 3rd or 4th time we have used Priceline to book a hotel room and so far we have never been disappointed. 
 The hotel and room were both very nice and it was only a 5-10 minute drive from our hotel to the Hyatt where the party was taking place. After checking into our room
we changed into our swimsuits and spent 45 minutes soaking in the hotel’s hot tub. We were slightly late for the party, but the relaxing time was worth it.
The Hyatt was festive and the party was swanky and fun.

There were casino tables where you could earn chips to cash in for raffle tickets for a drawing for restaurant gift cards with limo service.  We did not win any of the gift cards (I found out later that my winning mojo was currently invested in winning a book that I had entered to win) but my husband had a good time playing roulette, and it was nice because you weren’t actually spending any real money.  The party also had the reappearance of one of my new favorite event buffet items…a mashed potato bar.  There was a live band with a rocking saxophone player and plenty of dancing.  
After the party we went back to the hotel and went straight to bed because we needed to be up bright and early.
We got to Convent station by 9am.  Due to work on the tracks, the trains were running a bit behind, which was not great because it was down right chilly and the inside of the station is closed on Sundays. 
I was excited when I saw that we would be riding on a double decker train.  The double decker trains are nicer, roomier and just more fun.
The train ride from Convent Station to Penn Station lasted an hour and then we took the subway to Times Square. Once in Times Square we still had some extra time to kill before our brunch reservation.  Since it was cold, we decided to kill time by wandering around in some of the nice warm stores in Times Square.

There were crowds, but it wasn't nearly as insane as the one year when we went to New York City at Christmas time.  It may have been less chaotic because of the snow that was coming, but we were pretty oblivious to all that. Once our clock struck 12pm, we were off to brunch.

Note: People dressed in mascot type costumes rank just below clowns and ventriloquist puppets in things that I am afraid of.  There are a lot of mascot type people wandering around in Times Square.  I told my husband that I would be fine as long as none of them touched me, which was right about the time when one of the Elmos decided to put his hand on my shoulder.  It is probably for the best that I have never been trained in the ninja arts, because I probably would have laid Elmo out.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Day of The Doctor

So today was the big day.  It was the day of the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who.  For those of us who are fans of The Doctor, it has been a day of much anticipation.  As soon as I found out that a movie theater near where I live would be showing the 50th Anniversary episode on the big screen in 3D, I was practically knocking down the theater door to secure my tickets.

The episode was AMAZING and I am so excited to see where the show will be going as it has now added a brand new, very interesting plot.  I won't go into a review of the entire episode.  I'll leave that to my friend Glenn Walker over at Biff Bam Pop.  He wrote an excellent review.

For those that did not get to see it in the theater there were a few little extras for us theater goers.  Before the episode, Strax appears and warns us about all of the unpleasant things that will happen to us if we use our cell phones, try to record the episode illegally, or talk and annoy those around us.  He also gave me a brand new view of popcorn.  Apparently popcorn can feel pain.

After Strax, the 11th Doctor appears to tell us that it is time to put on our 3D glasses, for a moment he transforms into the 10th Doctor who warns us that we must not be alarmed when the 11th Doctor's gigantic chin comes flying at us during the 3D effects. 

After the ending credits there was also a special making of the 50th anniversary episode feature that was narrated by Colin Baker.

It was a lot of fun seeing the episode with a large audience.  Because everyone was uber excited, no one was chatty, or rowdy, and it's awesome to hear everyone laugh together at all of the various Who related jokes and clap and cheer at all of the cheer worthy moments.  I was actually surprised by how loud the crowd cheered when Peter Capaldi made an appearance.  It was nice to see him already so lovingly accepted.

I made my own movie snack bags to share with my friends.  Jelly Babies are extremely yummy.

I met up with my fellow Oodles of Noodles team members (or should we call ourselves Cup-O-Soup) so we could watch the episode together.
When we first arrived there was quite a line, filled with people dressed up.  It absolutely befuddled people who were coming to the theater to see other movies.

The theater split the Who goers into 3 different theaters.  We were in 13.

The Fourth Doctor received a lot of Whovian love.

I am pretty sure that fez sales sky rocketed in anticipation of the 50th anniversary episode.
I was impressed with this girl's TARDIS dress complete with light up hat,

and while in the bathroom I ran into a fellow dalek hat wearer.
After leaving the theater, I zipped over to the British Chip Shop so that I could end the day with a TARDIS cookie.

It was so much fun.  I am a little sad that it is actually over now, but I am looking forward to hopefully finding Gallifrey.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

You Can't Twerk to the Violin- A Quiet Rumble

With our bellies full we were ready to head across the street to Union Transfer to see The Head and the Heart.  The Head and Heart is categorized at an indie folk rock band. 


Here is a little something so that you can get an idea of what the band is like. It may help you appreciate the story to come.

 Soul Mama (whose blog I love reading) loves the band and she raises sheep and then spins her own wool into yarn for homemade knitting projects so I think overall I was expecting the crowd to be mostly made up of crunchy types with some hipsters sprinkled in for good measure, but I believe my husband said it best,

“I feel like these people are at a completely different concert than the one we’re at.”
We found a nice little spot to hunker down in. A spot that we thought was fairly out of the way of craziness, after all you are not allow to drink alcoholic beverages on the floor of Union Transfer, so that should cut out at least some of the nonsense, right?

Things seemed fine when the first opening band began.  They were called Quite Life and they were good.  All of the members had great beards and hats.

The second opener was Thao and the Get down, Stay down. 

 She was kind of like if a member of Mumford and Sons had a daughter with Bjork and then that daughter started a band with Jesus as the drummer. She was very talented, but we weren't 100% on board with her set.  She did have one very catchy song that involved the banjo that I must admit I've been humming to myself all week.  When I checked out the album on iTunes it was pretty good, better than the live performance, so I may get it sometime in the future.
It was about the time that Thao was ending that Cassie and her crew showed up.  They were a rather friendly group of girls who decided to take up residence in front of us in our peaceful little spot.  Cassie taught her friends that when you go to the bar and order non-alcoholic beverages, your cup is marked with an X so that the security guards know that your drink has no alcohol.  Cassie brings her own Sharpie to Union Transfer, orders alcoholic beverages and then marks them herself with an X so the security believes them to be non-alcoholic.  One of the girls in the group brought her own flask, while others had tiny bottles of liquor that they added to their cups of soda.  That probably should have been the sign that we were in trouble.
Finally the time had come for The Head and the Heart to play. 

We were all very excited.  The girls were very very excited to see the band.  They loved indie folk rock music so much that they decided to have a full on dance party. 
Now usually at these types of concerts there are certain moves.  I'm a big fan of the sway bounce.  I usually sway bounce quite a bit a concerts.  There is also the sway bounce that includes some shoulder shakes and head shakes or there is your basic up and down pogo sometimes accompanied with a raised hand and finger point as though you are saying, "I love you band, you are awesome!"  Those are the usual moves found at these types of shows.  This was not the type of show, especially  a sold out crowed show, to show off your full out on the night club dance floor moves, but clearly Cassie and her friends were not aware of this information. They were very touchy feely and affectionate with one another, which made us wonder if there was more than just vodka in their systems. They did not seem to care that their dance moves resulted in them crashing into those around them.  I had to dodge an elbow to the face more than once.  A couple of times, one of the girls did some twerking moves.  One, it doesn't have quite the same impact when you are twerking in jeans and a flannel shirt and two, you can't twerk to the violin!  Indie folk rock is not twerking music. 

At the same time, we became aware that there was a guy behind us who did not have proper concert etiquette either.  He seemed to think he was in a mosh pit.  He was a big guy and was yelling and getting super rowdy, so much so that the guards came and talked to him several times.  At one point between songs he yelled out,
"Let's get ready to rumble!!!!"
Charity one of the band members replied, "It's a quiet rumble." 
Well rumble guy eventually stepped over the line when a guard asked once again that he calm down so he wouldn't hurt the people around him and rumble guy responded by saying that the guards should just kill him.   He got thrown out.
Between rumble guy and Cassie's group my cousin said,
"I feel like we are in crazyland."  Again, just to remind you this is an indie folk rock band.  Very mellow with contemplative lyrics, not crazy moshing music at all.
We were happy when the band started breaking out their slow songs.  Surely the girls couldn't dance to these songs, we thought.  We were right, they did not dance but instead formed a glob of bodies.  Now I have seen girls stand in a line with their arms around each other and sway, but this wasn't a line, it was a mass of arms, legs and heads.  They swayed violently, crashing into us over and over again and would sometimes do this move where they would all lean back, causing us to be in danger of receiving a head-butt. 
A few times my husband said to me and my cousin,
"You better watch out or you will get sucked into their love fest."  He also said,
"I think they are going for a record for longest group hug."
At the point when we had had just about enough of being smashed into by a group of swaying girls my cousin said,
"I am about to break out my karate moves." I said I would break my karate moves out too.

Thankfully towards the end of the concert the girls migrated to the left and further up so we were able to enjoy the last few songs unmolested.  Overall we had a good time at the concert, but we would have enjoyed the show more if it were not for the crazy people.  At least we have a good story from the experience.  I can see us in ten years still breaking out,
"Do you remember that concert with those crazy girls and the rumble guy? That was a fun time."

Here's the song I've been singing all week.  Sadly the drummer in the video does not look like Jesus.