Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Chris Young Concert

Last week I went to another country concert at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. I always have a good time at those!


Morgan Evans was the first opener. He's Australian and married to Kelsea Ballerini. Who knew? We missed most of his set, but here are two songs he performed:

Kiss Somebody


Hooked (a song he wrote for Dylan Scott)




Dan + Shay were up next. I was so excited to see them because of their song "Tequila," but they have a lot of good hits!

Tequila

From the Ground Up

How Not To

Speechless

I Like the Sound of That (a song they wrote for Rascal Flatts)


And there were some I didn't recognize but I liked:

All to Myself

19 You + Me

Alone Together

Then it was time for the main act, Chris Young! He's been around for a while, but I never had the chance to see him perform live before. He wasn't great live, but I still love so many of his songs:

Lonely Eyes

Losing Sleep

Aw Naw

I'm Comin' Over

Tomorrow


Voices

The Man I Want to Be


Hangin' On

Sober Saturday Night


Gettin' You Home

You

Who I Am With You

I Can Take It From Here (He didn't perform this song, but it's a fun one!)



And while Cassadee Pope wasn't there to perform live, there was a video of her singing the "Think of You" duet:

And I had never heard this one before:

Save Water Drink Beer


So many good songs, such a fun time! I'm seeing two more country concerts in early 2019, so stay tuned for those blog posts!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Advice for the last guy I dated


So, I recently broke up with someone whom I had been seeing for a few months. Even though he's a 30 year-old man, I soon realized he was actually a man-child. Though I'm sure he'll never read this post, here are some tips that he (and many other men) could use:

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1. Red wine goes with beef. White wine goes with chicken and fish. No exceptions. Oh, and you should drink wine out of a wine glass, not a mason jar.


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2. The Lions and Cowboys play football on Thanksgiving every year. This has been the case for decades. So don't ask who's playing that day; you should already know half the answer already.

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3. Many of the most popular Christmas songs were written by Jews, including Winter Wonderland, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, and more. So if you're Jewish, don't claim you're a "good Jew" by hating on Christmas music.

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4. Don't tell me to send you a sexy selfie. If I want to send you a pic, I'll send you a pic. And don't do that creepy high school move where, when we're kissing, you try to push my hand into your crotch. If I want to touch your dick, I'll touch your dick! Oh, and no dry humping. Ever.


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5. Don't text your friends or read the news on your phone while you're on a date. That just shows that you'd rather be somewhere else with someone else rather than the girl you're with. And don't use your phone when you think she's not looking, like when she's talking to the waiter (Just because her main attention is on something else doesn't mean she doesn't notice.). Put your phone on silent and put it away. Better yet, leave it in the car or your bag for the entirety of the date.

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6. Foot the bill. I know I'm old-fashioned on this, but when you take a girl out to dinner, you should plan to pay for her meal. If she insists on going Dutch, that's one thing. But just like girls "make the reach" (even if they don't mean it), you should offer to pay, too.

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7. On that note, learn how to balance your check book (or at the very least monitor your account online regularly). You should never have a zero dollar balance or even come close to it! And you should sign up for a credit card; you should have done so the moment you got a real, full-time, adult job. How are you ever going to buy a car or house, or get a loan, if you haven't built up any credit?

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8. Be respectful to strangers who are nice to you. It's one thing to be an asshole to a jerk (although that's still unattractive). It's another to be rude to someone who has never done you wrong. You never know if you'll cross paths again, or if they know someone you know... Nothing good comes out of you acting like a self-centered prick.
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9. Attempt (succeed, actually) in sweeping a woman off her feet emotionally and intellectually before trying to do so physically. If there's no established connection between you two outside of the bedroom, there certainly isn't going to be one in the bedroom. Telling someone you want to "fuck" her and asking if she's on birth control before you've even discussed where you both were in the relationship and how you were feeling is just insensitive (and disgusting, quite frankly). Otherwise, it's clear that sex for you isn't an intimate connection with someone; it's just a biological response to being with a female human. There is nothing sexy about you thinking with your primitive brain. Evolve, man.

*Apologies for all the animal humping videos. But that kinda sums it up...

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Giving Thanks on Thanksgiving


After losing my friend Hendo earlier this week, I began to think even more about all of the people and other blessings in my life. While this list is certainly not complete, here are the things I am most thankful for:













1. My friends and family. They are such an incredible support system and bring so much joy to my life. I would not be the person I am today or have the life I have without them. If I want to get together with friends, I practically have my own listserv of 50+ names. I'm never alone, and as an extrovert, I am very thankful for that!

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2. My education and my work. Not a day goes by that I don't think about going to Dartmouth and what an amazing opportunity going to that school was (or the very fact that I grew up in a country where women can go to school in the first place). That degree has opened so many doors for me, and I have been able to build a career in a field I love because of that critical stepping stone. The work I have done for environmental non-profits has been very rewarding, and I hope I can continue to organize events for a number of worthy causes far into the future.

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3. Food, running water, a roof over my head. I think many of us take these necessities for granted, but they must be on this list for obvious reasons.

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4. My health. I am a very active person, and I love that I am able to participate in some of my favorite hobbies: hiking, kayaking, dancing, yoga, all of my gym classes, tennis... My joints might be a little achy sometimes, and I haven't been able to run since 2012, but I am still grateful for all of the physical things I can do. Being with my grandmother this week has also shown me how important my health is. I want to be as active as I can now before I'm too old to enjoy it!

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5. Living in an urban area with lots to do. I like keeping busy, and DC makes that easy to do. I'm forever seeing and doing fun things, from supporting the arts to visiting nearby parks to shopping at neighborhood markets. My worst nightmare is sitting home alone watching TV, and being in DC makes it so I'm never bored! And I am thankful that I have the discretionary income to take advantage of all of it!

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6. The local Jewish community. I didn't grow up Jewish (other than celebrating Passover and Hanukkah), and even in college I wasn't very involved in Hillel. But once I moved to the DC area nearly seven years ago, I have had the chance to be very involved. I worked at a synagogue, I go to Shabbat once a month, and I participate in Moishe House events regularly. I have met so many fun people while at the same time becoming closer to my faith. My belief in God is stronger than ever and is forever growing.

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7. My confidence and self-respect. Far too many women hate themselves or don't believe in themselves, and perhaps never will. I am so thankful that my parents raised me in a way that built up my self-esteem; they always told me I was smart and beautiful, and it's like a mantra I tell myself every day. I truly love who I am, and if someone doesn't like me, that's on them. Too many women care too much about what other people think of them. Take it from me: you will be much happier if you give fewer f**ks. Nothing is sadder than seeing people trying to impress others to make themselves feel better. You shouldn't have to prove anything to anyone, ever.

This list could go on and on, but seven seems like a lucky number, so I'll stop there. What are you most thankful for this holiday?


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

In honor of Hendo

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The other day I learned that a friend of mine from Capital Blues, Jonathan "Hendo" Henderson, unexpectedly passed away. I was stunned, shocked. I had just danced with him the week before (and nearly every week this entire year). How could he be gone?

Hendo was an incredible force in the local blues dancing community. He was an amazing dancer with his own unique style; I learned all of my solo blues moves from him, and he was forever encouraging me to try new moves. He helped organize the weekly dances for us at Glen Echo Park, as well as the big dance weekends in the D.C. area. He was a familiar face at each dance; it was nearly a guarantee that he would be there. Now he will not.

He was one of the warmest souls. He always had a smile for you. Even when he was serious or in a mood, he was sweet and kind. And he gave great hugs.

At every Thursday dance he would make announcements, and always ended with the rules of the dance: "Use your words, respect each other's boundaries, and don't be a jerk." These are words we should all carry with us, not only on the dance floor but throughout our daily lives. We will never forget you, Hendo.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Recipe: Monkey Nut Cookies


These are probably the nicest looking cookies I've ever baked. And I actually made the full 48 cookies!
As one of my snow day traditions, I like to bake when I'm cooped up at home during a storm. I had a very ripe banana (I wasn't even sure it would last another day), so I looked online for recipes that only called for one banana (most banana breads call for two or three, etc.). So when I came across this recipe by Joseph Feiertag on Snapguide, I thought it was perfect.

The way this recipe is presented is very annoying: nowhere are the directions in one place. They are all spread out, step-by-step, with pictures to match (with his own commentary sprinkled in). So you have to keep scrolling between the long pages of steps just to get to the bottom to see the list of ingredients; I like to double-check my measurements before I put any ingredients into the batter, and it's more helpful to have the ingredients and instructions all on one page. I guess this is just how Snapguide does things.

So to make it easy for YOU, I have written them all in one place here (along with my own commentary):


Ingredients
1
Cup Butter 
¾
Cups Brown sugar 
¾
Cups Granulated sugar 
2
Eggs 
1
Tablespoon Pure Vanilla extract 
1
Small, ripe banana 
Cups all-purpose flour 
3
Tablespoons Cornstarch  
1
Teaspoon Coarse salt 
1
Teaspoon Baking soda 
1
Cup White chocolate chips 
1
Cup Milk chocolate chips 
1
Cup Walnuts or any other kind you prefer  


Directions

1. Gather ingredients (My commentary: Brilliant, genius.)
2. In the mixing bowl: butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla.
3. Cream together. (Does this need to be a separate step? Shouldn't it be with #2?)
4. Add eggs one at a time and mix until we'll [sic] blended (Nice apostrophe, dude.)
5. Add the other egg and blend (Again, this is a bit redundant from #4.)
6. Slice the bananas.
7. Add bananas and blend until somewhat smooth ("Somewhat" is clearly a technical term.)
8. Add the dry ingredients; flour, cornstarch, salt and baking soda.
9. Mix just until the flour is almost in blended in. (In, in,inininin....)
10. Add the white chocolate, milk chocolate chips and the walnuts.
11. Scoop cookies onto parchment or onto non-stick cookie sheets. (Well, we're actually scooping cookie dough, since they aren't quite cookies yet...)
12. Bake at 350f for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.

Perhaps this was his first time actually writing a recipe down, but he made a few mistakes:

1. He never says to preheat the oven. You don't even know what temperature to heat the oven until you reach the end of the recipe. Rookie move!

2. He says to "slice the bananas," as in plural. But the recipe only calls for one banana. Would it be that difficult to proofread and remove the s? And he uses semicolons instead of colons. It's confusing.

3. When he says to add the dry ingredients, he left out the step to actually mix those together in a separate bowl beforehand. As an experienced baker, I know to do this, but what if I were a beginner?

4. He never explains how to cool the cookies. Do you immediately remove them from the cookie sheet? Do you let them rest a few minutes before moving them to a cooling rack? Do you even use a cooling rack?

Here are some things I did differently:

- I didn't use walnuts. A lot of people don't like nuts in desserts, so I didn't bother. I also used a little more than a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, and just under a cup of white chocolate chips. (That's what I had in the house!)

- I keep my butter in the freezer, which can make it really hard to mix into a batter. So I melted it first. Most recipes don't call for you to do that, but it makes the mixing a lot easier (but does make the batter wetter). 

- I DID preheat the oven, and as for cooling, I left the cookies on the baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely.

These cookies are VERY yummy, and while they are golden on the outside, they're soft on the inside. I think these might be a new favorite!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Review: Broadway's Anastasia


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When I saw that the musical of Anastasia was coming to the Kennedy Center, I was definitely interested; I have such fond memories of the cartoon movie. Unfortunately tickets were a little expensive, so I thought I'd just have to pass. But then I found a great deal for discounted tickets, and I got to sit right in the middle of the center orchestra for $35! I swear it was the best seat I have ever had in the Opera House. I was so excited that I didn't have to miss this show, because it was AMAZING!

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The show starts out in wintertime in the palace of the Romanovs. It felt very much like the Nutcracker ballet: snow falling in the background, families dancing inside a beautiful, grandiose hall, a little girl dressed in pink who receives a gift... Nice parallels for two Russian stories!

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I loved the costumes (designed by Linda Cho; lindacho.com), especially for the royal family in the beginning. They are so elegant and opulent! And the tsarina's tiara: I NEED that.

I love this blue dress. I actually dressed up as Anastasia for a sorority rush party once: beaded dress, white gloves, tiara, etc. Image found here
Along with the costumes, the set was also spectacular. The only permanent part of the set were two columns toward the sides of the stage. The majority of the backdrop was actually created with digital images/videos on a screen (designed by Aaron Rhyne; aaronrhyne.com). It was incredible! Of course a screen can show you a million things, and it also creates depth-perception in a way traditional sets can't. You could see snow falling, clouds rolling in, and twilight's arrival. But the screen wasn't just used to show the weather. You could...

See ghosts dancing along with Anya's memory of her music box (just like in the cartoon!):

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Or watch the landscape fly by as the characters ride the train:

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Or view the entire cityscape of Paris at once:

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With the screen, a roaring 1920's bar...

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Can transform into a garden seamlessly:

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Of course I didn't see the musical for the backdrop (as stunning as it all was). I was there for the music! These are some of my favorites from the cartoon movie:

Once Upon a December


Learn to Do It



Journey to the Past


Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart


*I had forgotten that the characters transformed in Paris just like they did in the musical!

From street rats in St. Petersburg...

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to this!

Flashmob and all! Image found here
I will say I was disappointed that the song "At the Beginning" was not featured in the musical. Even though this song plays during the credits of the cartoon version, it has always stuck with me:


Now onto the actors themselves:

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Lila Coogan, Anastasia: While not traditionally beautiful with her masculine jaw and thick eyebrows (although those are all the rage these days), she really did a wonderful job, especially singing. She has such a powerful voice! I was blown away. And after listening to the videos from the cartoon, Coogan is definitely a stronger singer than that!

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Stephen Brower, Dmitry: He is very cute and has good energy onstage, but his voice wasn't nearly as strong as Coogan's. Between the "couple," I was much more impressed by her.

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Edward Staudenmayer, Vlad: I had totally forgotten about this character entirely! But he was so funny, with great stage presence, physical comedy, and singing. I think he may have been my favorite in the entire production!

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Tari Kelly, Countess Lily: I don't really remember this character from the movie. But the way Countess Lily is played in the musical, she is a CHARACTER rather than a person. She is just SO over-the-top, like the comedy relief that you can't get relief from. Everything is too loud, too much, joke-after-joke... The other characters could indeed be real people, but Countess Lily was a clown. I can't blame Kelly for that: I guess it's how the character was written. And in that case, she did a great job: she was very funny, especially regarding her slapstick comedy.

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Jason Michael Evans, Gleb: Gleb is the bad guy in the musical; this version actually has no Rasputin (or Bartok) at all! I was a bit disappointed by that, but then again, I figure the story is about Anya finding out who she really is, rather than about a good vs. evil storyline. BUT that meant that the Gleb character wasn't really all that important. He'd show up on stage every once in a while and threaten to hurt (or even kill) Anastasia, but he never does any of that. So again, Evans does a good job doing what he was hired to do; his character was just kinda lame.

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Another major divergence from the movie is the story of how Anya and Dmitry meet. In the movie, it is revealed that Dmitry actually helped Anya escape during the attack on the Romanov palace. But in the musical, they met eyes during a parade. Hear the story in the song, "In a Crowd of Thousands" :



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Sorry for the non-sequitur, but... There was also a ballet within the musical, so that was a little meta. There was a miniature dance ensemble, and when the ballet was "over," the crowd applauded as if they had just watched the real thing, not a mini-ballet inside of a musical. (PS: When Von Rothbart, the bad guy in the ballet, came onto the stage, Gleb also arrived for the show, which was clever symmetry).

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Claire Rathbun was playing Odette from Swan Lake (another Russian ballet with music composed by Tchaikovsky). She is so beautiful, like a mix of Lacey Rogers from ANTM and The Tudors' Natalie Dormer. I actually think she has a Russian face! She LOOKS more like an Anastasia than Coogan, but while she can dance, I bet she can't sing like Coogan can!

The most touching part of the performance for me was when Anya reunited with her grandmother and they both realize she is indeed Anastasia. I was crying, and I'm sure I wasn't the only one!

Even if there were parts missing that I liked from the movie, or if some of the cast was not how I had imagined, I really can't say enough good things about this production. It is just THAT good. If you can, buy a ticket. You've still got about a month to see it, so buy your tickets and GO!

PPS: Before the show, I actually arrived in time to catch some of the performance at Millennium Stage (they have free shows there every night). I saw the Capitol Bones, a trombone big band group. The singer Christal Rheams also joined them, and they performed a few songs in honor of Aretha Franklin. I was glad I got to see them; it was like seeing two shows in one night but for one low price!