Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Spring Purchases

Pretty much every time I visit my parents on Maryland's Eastern Shore, I visit the Queenstown Premium Outlets. Sometimes I can go a little crazy there with my shopping, easily spending several hundred dollars. But this past Easter weekend, I kept it together and only bought a few items, all of which I am very excited to wear this spring! Here are my conquests:

Ultra-suede cardigan from Chico's
This is from last season, so while this was originally priced at $149 (!!!), then on sale for $65, I got it for $15 on final sale! It is so soft and cozy; I'm looking forward to snuggling in it and watching a movie on a quiet night at home.

Sundress from Old Navy
This little dress is so cute, and I got it for just $20 (It's $30 online and in non-outlet stores.). I'm so pumped to finally show off some skin again now that it's finally warm! Although, I will admit that I didn't think about the fact that this dress doesn't have a shelf-bra, and I really hate strapless bras. So...that's a dilemma I'll have to think about later.

Half-zip from Nautica
I could not for the life of me find this item online. My guess is that it's specifically for factory/outlet stores, AND it was on sale, so there aren't any left. I even bought an XS because there were no more smalls left. I like the little striped detail (it looks like you're wearing a camisole underneath), and there are a few navy blue stripes at the bottom of the shirt (which you can't see in this photo). I think this will be nice to wear when I'm wearing a cute dress (like the one above) if I get a little chilly at night. It might also work as warm-up wear for tennis. We'll see!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Cherry Blossoms 2016

The cherry blossoms in DC bloomed early this year, so I went to see them at their peak the other day last week. Here are some photos:

My dad proposed to my mom at the Jefferson Memorial, so this one has a special place in my heart.

I like how the trees form a floral canopy over the trail.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial from the other side of the tidal basin.
Of course the photos kind of look the same every year, but I always enjoy being outside in the warm weather and looking at the pretty flowers. So I'm sure I'll be out there again in 2017 taking more identical pictures of these pink and white blooms. They make me happy, like this:

These photos were taken with a Canon PowerShot ELPH 130 IS.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Movie Review: Batman vs. Superman [SPOILERS]

Image found here.
Last night, I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Yes, that's right, I saw it on March 24, not March 25, which is supposed to be when the movie opens (as you can see from the poster). So, that was odd. Almost as odd as the movie itself.

I'm not a fan of superhero movies. Frankly, I'm quite sick of them: there are SO many of them, so many spin-offs....I wish someone would think of SOMETHING else to make a movie about. Anything! The only reason I saw this film was because Henry Cavill plays Superman, and he is fine.

I didn't plan on liking the movie, and I didn't. Here are my issues with the film:

1. While there might have been a plot, it was so convoluted that I got lost watching the movie. There's a little background to show the animosity between the two main characters, but there aren't enough flashbacks or explanations to make things 100% clear. Then there's bad guy after bad guy, fight sequence after fight sequence, and all I could think was, "Is this going anywhere?" Even Kevin Costner makes a cameo, which threw me off since this isn't a baseball movie. The path to resolution at the end (which every movie should have, but most superhero movies don't because they need a beloved sequel) was nowhere in sight and never came.

Yeah...No thumbs up for you, old Ben Affleck.
2. Ben Affleck is getting old. It's a little far-fetched that a man in his 40's is this powerful superhero. Affleck should have been Batman back when he was Daredevil (probably one of the worst superhero movies ever). He didn't miss his chance to play the role, but maybe he should have.

3. The bad guys didn't do it for me. Jesse Eisenberg plays Lex Luthor, the historical archenemy of  Superman. He acts awkward and strange...Wait, Eisenberg always is like that in films (The Social Network, anyone?). Is he really acting, or is that just how he is in real life? Although Eisenberg has never played Lex Luthor before, I felt like I had seen this character before. And as if one bad guy weren't enough, Lex Luthor also creates an over-the-top monster who looks like the love child between Jurassic World's T-Rex, Smeagol from Lord of the Rings, the Cyclops from Hercules, and Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.  See below:
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Yeah, I wasn't feeling this guy. He's just gross and loud and big. Whatever.

4. As stated, the ending was predictable for a superhero movie: it was just a set-up for a sequel. During the movie, we see little hints and clues about other characters like the Flash and Aquaman, so you know they'll pop up in the next movie (or the one after that. It's a never-ending cycle). At the end, Bruce Wayne (i.e. Batman when he's not in costume) is asking Wonder Woman to get in touch with these other superheros; when she asks, "Why do you say they'll have to fight," he responds, "I just have a feeling." Boom, great ending. But NO. Movies assume that their audiences are complete idiots and don't understand foreshadowing. So then we have a couple more minutes to show that Lex Luthor is insane and will be coming back as the villain (duh). This was completely unnecessary and redundant.

5. This movie is SO long at 2.5 hours! It's very difficult for me to sit still for more than 90 minutes, so this film just dragged on. Half-way through, I couldn't even pretend that I was entertained: I was bored and just counting down the minutes until I could leave. I don't see why the filmmakers feel like they have to cram everything into one super-long movie. They know there will be sequels, so why not just break it down into more movies? I was so over it that when touching scenes happened, I couldn't feel an emotional connection that I may have felt otherwise. For example, [BIG SPOILER here], after Superman dies, Lois Lane is at his country home with his parents, and she receives the engagement ring he was going to give her. That is SO sad, and yet I couldn't care less because I was so distracted by the fact that I had been sitting in the movie theater for so long and couldn't wait to get out of there. (Oh, and did I mention there was a half hour of previews before the movie? So yeah, I was sitting there for THREE hours....)

Honestly, the best part of the movie was how hot Gal Gadot is (she plays Wonder Woman). I wanted ALL of her outfits! Case in point:

Image found here.
I think I just found my next girl crush. At least something good came out of this movie.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Cheesy Beef Casserole Recipe

I cut this recipe out of Taste of Home magazine YEARS ago but didn't actually get around to making this dish until this past weekend. It's a pretty easy recipe, and it's delicious! Give it a go!


  • 4 cups uncooked medium egg noodles
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) 4% cottage cheese 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • Additional Parmesan cheese, optional
NOTE: I am always changing recipes depending on my preferences or what I have in my kitchen. I used ricotta cheese instead of cottage cheese because I don't really like the latter. I also didn't bother using Parmesan cheese or green onions. And I added sliced mushrooms!


  1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook beef and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Add the tomato sauce, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, onions and green pepper. Drain noodles; place half in a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish. Top with half of the meat and cheese mixtures. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with additional Parmesan cheese if desired.
  3. Cover and bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through. Yield: 6 servings. 
I will say that I made WAY too many noodles, so when I divided them in half to make the layers, one half was already A LOT of pasta. So I didn't end up doing multiple layers; I just did one layer of pasta, one layer of meat, and one layer of the cheese mixture. But this didn't impact the cook time and I think worked just as well. And now I have the leftover plain pasta to cook other things with!

Click here to see this recipe online.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Play Review: Othello [SPOILERS]

*DISCLAIMER: I did nap through the majority of this production, so anything I write here should be taken with a large grain of salt.*

Image found here.
I never read Othello in school, so I did make sure to brush on up my SparkNotes before seeing this play. It's basically about how the villain Iago manipulates and lies to people just to ruin the life of the Moor Othello (the reason for this hatred is debatable). There isn't much excitement in the story, mostly just talking, which can be boring (especially when Shakespearean English is so hard to understand!). It's not a very nice story, and you certainly don't feel good after watching it (or watching parts of it, as I did).

Here are the pros and cons of my evening experience.


1. Location: The Shakespeare Theatre Company performs at Sidney Harman Hall, which is right off of the Gallery Place/Chinatown metro stop near the Verizon Center, so the venue was very easy to get to! So at least I didn't have to worry about getting lost and such.

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2. The set: The set was sparse but interesting. There is an obvious military feel to it, with large fans in the back that would cast shadows during parts of the play. Metal barrels are scattered around the edge of the stage, and there was very little furniture/props. The lighting was the main star of the show, becoming increasingly dark during the saddest/darkest parts of the story.

3. The cast: This was quite a star-studded cast! Faran Tahir, who played Othello, was in movies like Elysium, Star Trek, and Iron Man, and was also on TV shows such as Criminal Minds, Elementary, Supernatural, Lost, and Grey's Anatomy. And Jonno Roberts, who played Iago, had a recurring role of the TV show Bones. How cool!


1. Effects: Sometimes the light was so bright that it reflected off of the metal stage, blinding the audience for several moments. And at one point soldiers started shooting their guns, which was so loud and jarring! And it wasn't just one or two shots: it was at least six! None of this added to the enjoyment of the play (and obviously disturbed my slumber!).

2. Costumes: It's not that the costumes were bad. But, I was sitting in the very last row, SO high up from the stage, that is was difficult to tell who was who when many of the men were wearing similar costumes (i.e. military uniforms). It would have been easier to understand if each character had his or her own distinguishable ensemble.

3. Plot: As mentioned, there isn't much of a story. It's just about mischievous Iago trying to cause trouble pretty much to the detriment of everyone else. He makes Othello believe that his wife Desdemona is cheating on him (when she isn't) and makes men hate each other over other lies. So there were lots of people talking (lying) to each other, an occasional fight broke out, and by the end several characters had been murdered. Lovely.

Again, I don't want to say that they did a bad job, because I know the actors and everyone else involved worked really hard to put this together. It just wasn't my taste, and I honestly don't regret missing the majority of it, even while sitting in the theater.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Concert Review: Vienna Mozart Orchestra

For the second half of the night, the orchestra dressed up like Mozart! Photo by Julia Fiala.
Last night a friend and I went to see the Vienna Mozart Orchestra perform at the Strathmore. She is from Vienna, so going to this concert with her made it even more fun. AND I had just finished watching Amadeus the previous week, so I felt very prepared! Here are the pieces they performed:

Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384; Overture (The video is from a different orchestra.)

Symphony No. 40 in G minor, K. 550

Marriage of Figaro, K. 492

"Non più andrai" (different singer than I saw)

Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384

"Martern aller Arten" (different singer than I saw)

Don Giovanni, K. 527 (both parts sung by Sokolin Asllani, whom I saw last night)

"Deh, vieni alla finestra"

"Finch' han dal vino"

Symphony No. 38 in D major "Prague" , K. 504; Finale

Idomeneo, K. 366, "D'Oresta d'Ajace" (sung by Sera Gösch, whom I saw perform)

Magic Flute, K. 620

This was just like the movie clip in Amadeus!

Then there were two encores!

Eine kleine Nachtmusik (probably Mozart's most recognizable piece)

Which of course made me think of this scene in The Witches of Eastwick:

Radetzky March: This was written by Johann Strauss, NOT by Mozart, but it is a popular Austrian song. (different orchestra). We were encouraged to clap along with this song, which was quite fun!

What a fun night! I would see this orchestra perform again if/when they're back in the DC area!

Click here to see some short clips of performances by the Vienna Mozart Orchestra.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Movie Review: A Tale of Love and Darkness [SPOILERS]

Image found here.
Last night I went to a screening of A Tale of Love and Darkness, which was the closing event for the Washington Jewish Film Festival. This was Natalie Portman's directorial debut, and she was actually at the event herself!
She wasn't much of a public speaker, but still! To see her in the flesh! Photo by Bruce Guthrie.
The film is based on the memoir by Amos Oz of the same title. The movie was quite depressing, to say the least.There were some bits of comedic relief, but not enough to make you feel like you actually enjoyed watching the film. I found that it is the Jewish/Israeli version of Revolutionary Road: A young mother is happy early on but then becomes depressed when she realizes that family is all that she has to live for; she has no dreams, no aspirations, and ends up killing herself to end the monotony of her life. So, not much of a story, really. I liked the historic parts about Jerusalem and Israel, and there are some interesting tid-bits about the Hebrew language sprinkled throughout, but all in all, I didn't really like the film. It's not that Portman did a bad job: I thought it was directed well, and her acting was wonderful as usual (as were the actors who played her husband and son). But the story itself didn't do it for me; I just wanted to scream at her character, "Get a grip! Life could be so much worse! Stop being so selfish!" When I can't relate to the protagonist of a film, I usually don't like the movie, and that's what happened here.

After the film, we walked out of the theater, and we were each given a gold gift box! We were very curious to see what was inside! Much to our disappointment, this was it:

Maybe a smaller box would have made this seem more impressive...?
A can of sparkling water, a cake pop, and an individually wrapped Twizzler. What a waste! For one, people would have wanted to enjoy some snacks at a reception beforehand or during the film. Who wants to eat this stuff at 9 o'clock at night? And talk about the environmental impacts: all those paper boxes, cake pop wrappers, and the plastic around the candy? That's all going to end up in a landfill. Honestly, I would have preferred my money just go to support the film festival itself rather than help pay for these measly snacks. WJFF, I expected better.

So, two stars for an evening's worth of entertainment. Meh. 

Click here to to see other photos from the event from Bruce Guthrie.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Ballet Review: New York City Ballet at the Kennedy Center

I always try to take whatever chance I get to see a ballet at the Kennedy Center. It's a beautiful venue, and they have the best companies perform there. A friend and I went to see the New York City Ballet perform there earlier this week. They performed not just one piece, but bits of larger pieces (similar to what they did last April), which is quite interesting. I really enjoyed this particular performance!

1. Ash

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I want to describe this piece as modern dance, but it really wasn't. Most of the moves were very much from classical ballet. Maybe it was just the music that was modern? This piece premiered in 1991, so it is new-ish. There was no scenery (other than the blue screen behind the dancers), and their Star Trek-inspired costumes (which were a bit androgynous) were modest. These simplicities allowed me to focus more on the music, which I will admit is usually just in the background for me when I watch ballet.
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Ashley Laracey and Taylor Stanley danced the main roles, and I thought they were phenomenal. Stanley is a very strong dancer, and Laracey was absolutely beautiful. We had such close seats that we could see the sweat coming off the dancers as they moved around the stage, but they seemed to keep their cool!

2. After the Rain (excerpt)

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This pas de deux was amazing. It was very intimate and sexy, which I loved. I pictured this dance as a couple in their bedroom before going to bed (maybe because Jared Angle looked like he was wearing PJ pants?). The connection between Angle and Tiler Peck was very clear, and they truly looked like a real couple. They were almost always touching during the entire dance, and for the many times Angle was lifting/carrying Peck, he never looked like he was straining to do so. The movements were so interesting and so well done that I was captivated by these dancers! At the curtain call, Peck was given a dozen roses, and she immediately gave one to Angle, which I thought was a really sweet, genuine gesture. Bravo for these two!

Here's a video of the same piece from the Joffrey Ballet:

3. The Infernal Machine

Image found here.
This piece was aptly named! The stage was dark, the music was was all very intense with a martial feel about it. The dancing was very acrobatic, which was very cool to watch. I was impressed that Laracey, who had just danced in Ash, was the main dancer for this piece was well. Her partner, Amar Ramasar, was really great, and the two complimented each other well for this dance. She gave him a rose after the performance, but it didn't feel genuine; I think she just did it because the dancer before her did it. Just do your own thing!

Click here for a video clip of this piece.
4. Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2

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This was definitely the most classic piece of the evening. I mean, the music was Tchaikovsky and the choreography was George Balanchine! What is more "classical ballet" than that?! The music and dancing were beautiful, and the piano (played by Susan Walters) was incredible. She received a long round of applause afterward!

Photo by Paul Kolnik. Image found here.
Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle danced well together and were the epitome of a classic ballet duo!

Photo by Paul Kolnik. Image found here.
Ana Sophia Scheller was also fabulous and gorgeous in this costume! She definitely stood out!

Click here for a video of this piece.

5. The Most Incredible Thing

The King (weird!), the Princess, and the Creator. See image notes at the bottom of this post.
This was the longest piece of the evening. The program book explained the story very well, which was helpful, since I'm not sure I would have known what was going on! Here's a summary: A king wants to find a husband for his princess daughter (Sterling Hyltin), but he will only give her hand in marriage to someone who can create "the most incredible thing." A young man (Taylor Stanley) creates an amazing clock that is brought to life (which is the main part of the dance). Another man then comes in and destroys everything, but the clock comes back to life, so the Creator gets the girl and they live happily ever after (I assume). I really enjoyed how well Hyltin and Stanley danced together; there was a good connection, and you really thought they were in love!

Each small piece of the dance represents a part of the clock, as follows:

One O'Clock (& Ten O'Clock): The Cuckoo Bird. Image found here.

Tiler Peck performed as the Cuckoo Bird from the top of the clock, and she did a beautiful job! Her dances were short but memorable, and that costume was amazing!

Two O'Clock: Adam and Eve. Image found here.
Adrian Danchig-Waring and Rebecca Krohn played this part, and they were fantastic! The costumes were obvious yet subtle, and it was so funny when "Eve" actually bit into an apple on stage and then both dancers ran off, ashamed of their "nakedness."

Three O'Clock: The Three Kings. Image found here.
I was expecting something a little more Biblical, but Jared Angle, Daniel Applebaum, and Gonzalo Garcia were fun to watch (not sure if they are actually the men featured in this picture).

Four O'Clock: The Four Seasons. See image notes at the bottom of this post.
I did not read the program notes before this part, so it took me a little while to figure out how these four dancers were representing the four seasons. But once I figured out that Brittany Pollack was a nest, then the birds (Marika Anderson as the "Winter Crow" and Gwyneth Muller as the "Spring Bird") made sense (though I was still confused about Andrew Scordato as a grasshopper). I thought this was an interesting way to portray the four seasons, but due to the confusion, maybe being more obvious wouldn't have hurt. Dancers representing leaves, snowflakes, flowers, and sunshine would have been just as beautiful to represent the four seasons!

Five O'Clock: The Five Senses. Image found here.
These costumes really missed the mark for me. They look like the Coneheads! The only way they even represented one of the senses was when they pulled their dresses over their heads (sight). It would have been much more interesting to have a different costume for each sense, just like with the seasons. I'm not exactly sure how you might portray taste and sound, but there are some very creative people out there: someone could have figured it out!

Six O'Clock: The Gambler. Image found here.
Daniel Ulbricht was "The Gambler," and I thought he was quite funny, pretending to roll dice and jumping about the stage. The xylophone played during this piece, and sounded a bit like a Roulette wheel, which was only appropriate for this piece.

Seven O'Clock: Seven Deadly Sins/Seven Days of the Week (though only six are shown here). Image found here.
Again, the costumes to represent the "Seven Deadly Sins" could have been extraordinarily creative! Envy could be green, Wrath could be red, etc. But the only way these costumes looked "sinful" was with the little devilish horns that each dancer was wearing. As for the "Seven Days of the Week," I suppose the costumes worked on that angle: all of them are very similar, but still look different, since each day is not completely identical to the one before it. The dancing was good, but I will admit that I was too busy thinking over the costumes to pay too much attention to the actual dance.

Eight O'Clock: The Eight Monks. Image found here.
I thought these guys looked more like wizards than monks (but then I figured that if they dressed like traditional monks people may have been religiously offended). I thought this piece was Harry Potter all the way. And I'm not sure what the number eight has to do with monks. Why not dress up a dancer like a spider? Or FOUR dancers like spiders, each one representing a pair of legs on the arachnid? Now that would have been cool!

Nine O'Clock: The Nine Muses. Image found here.
These dancers look like the muses of Tim Burton:

See the resemblance? Image found here.
Again, the Nine Muses could have been portrayed in so many ways! Having each dancer represent one of the original Greek Muses would have been very interesting! Even just having them all wear toga-like costumes would have gotten the point across, and quite frankly would have been more beautiful (rather than slightly creepy). As usual, the dancing was good, but I thought the costumes were too distracting.

Image found here.
Eleven O'Clock was "The Children" (seated in the picture above). They were so cute and looked like little silver mushrooms! They threw sparkles around the stage playing a magical version of "Duck, Duck, Goose."And Twelve O'Clock was the full cast back on stage.

Not the same dancer I saw, but you get the idea. Image found here.
It is then that the Destroyer (Andrew Veyette) comes in and starts ruining everything! The club hand was a little weird (a sword would have been just fine), but I thought Veyette was good at playing the bad guy! But he is defeated by all of the members of the clock, and all ends well.

These were all quite creative pieces, and I really enjoyed the performance as a whole. The New York City Ballet does not disappoint!

*Image notes for both montage pictures (click to see image location):
Fall Nest
Winter Crow
Spring Bird
Summer Grasshopper