Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Orphan is the new Black--Thoughts on the third seasons of two awesome shows

Now that I'm done with season three of both Orphan Black and Orange is the New Black, I'd like to share my thoughts about each. WARNING: There will be spoilers.

If you haven't seen either series, here are the reasons to start watching.

Orphan Black:
This season was a lot to take in. There were so many new twists and developments. The Castor clones were just scary. I did feel bad for the one they were experimenting on and was glad Helena obeyed his request to put him out of his misery. Also, I feel like Mark was one of the good ones, even if he's probably not. I'm sad that Cal wasn't around more, as he's my favorite eye candy on the show. (Sorry Paul fans, although I did hate that he got killed off.) Sarah got herself into quite a few tricky situations, but I'm glad she came out on top in the end. I also love that things are better between Sarah and Helena. Speaking of...Helena really stole the show this season. The best scene ever was when she came out of the drug lord warehouse covered in blood and told Donnie she got him his refund. That, combined with her pretending to be Alison, was awesome! Alison's story line was pretty interesting, but had more of a Desperate Housewives feel once again. I'm glad she won the election though. I feel bad for Cosima, as she found someone to love but now she can't trust her and the woman she still loves is probably dead now. Felix was awesome this season. He really took charge and helped Sarah out a lot. We learned some new information about Mrs. S, as well. All in all, a nail-biting, edge of your seat season. I'm still going through withdrawal!

Unanswered questions:

  • Who shot Delphine?
  • Whose side is Ferdinand really on now? 
  • Where did Rachel's mother come from all of a sudden?
  • How is the Neolutionist movement back now that Dr. Leekie is gone?
  • What is going to happen with Krystal?
  • Will Kendall be able to help cure both Castor and Leda clones?

Orange is the New Black:
Since so much happened in 13 episodes, I'm just going to post my thoughts in list format.

  • I hate everything that happened to Sophia this season between her son becoming a troublemaker to everyone ostracizing her at Litchfield to being thrown into SHU for her own protection. Laverne Cox did some amazing acting this season and I hope she gets an Emmy for it. 
  • The whole situation with Daya is heartbreaking. First off, Bennett left and didn't even say anything to her about it. And this was after he proposed to her! Then her mom is using her situation to get money from Pornstache's mother. And after Daya agreed to the adoption for the sake of her child's happiness, her friend turned on her. Then Aleida lied to Pornstache's mom about the baby. That is going to blow up in their faces though. Now Daya's baby is somewhere in the system and she probably won't find out about it until it's too late. I just hope the baby at least gets adopted by a loving family. 
  • Alex had a pretty rough season with being thrown back in prison, finding out Piper was behind it, worrying for her life and thinking Lolly was after her, and now this guard, who is connected with Kubra, confronting her. 
  • I hate that the one guard who screwed Nicky over is somehow still making money off the drugs she asked him to sell for her and she's stuck in Max. I miss Nicky!!!
  • I loved Pennsatucky this season. She's softened up a lot and there's so much more to her story. I also love that Big Boo is protecting her. 
  • The whole Norma religious group got annoying after a while. Especially with the piece of toast in the final episode. I hate Leanne and how mean she was to Soso. That was horrible. I'm glad Norma finally got fed up with Leanne.
  • As for Soso, I'm glad she's okay and that Poussey welcomed her into her group. I'm also glad she told Healy that he's bad at his job. That was awesome.
  • I liked the Jewish angle. I know it's come under some criticism, but I'm glad that Cindy ended up committing to it and realizing that was what she really wanted. And it was cool that they talked about going to the mikvah and that Cindy got to experience it in some way. 
  • I'm totally shipping Red and Healy. I like how they balance each other out.
  • I love that Morello got married. She and Vinnie are cute together. And so funny that the guard let them consummate their marriage by wearing headphones and looking away while it happened.
  • I like that Caputo had more of a story this season and that we learned what a pushover he's always been. I'm glad Danny quit MCC. I was annoyed with him for a while, but it seems like he really was on Caputo's side in all that was going on.
  • Piper's panty selling business was clever, but pretty gross when you think about it. I love that Cal and Niri were trying to make their own formula to replicate the smell.  Overall, I think the series would be fine without Piper. There are so many other stories that it could go on for years! Especially now that there's a slew of new inmates. Glad we got Chang, Big Boo, and Norma's stories this time around.
  • Saving the best for last....Stella! Ruby Rose is definitely one to keep an eye on. Definitely #girlcrush-worthy. It's crazy how she tried to screw Piper over and how it ended up backfiring. I love how she took it in stride though. 
I know there is so much to talk about from this show, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.

If you watch BOTH shows (all three seasons), you'll appreciate some of these ideas to blend them together:

  • Leanne could be Prolethian instead of Amish. If Gracie ended up at Litchfield, they could even start some new religious group together.
  • Nicky and Helena could pretend to be each other from behind to trick people.
  • Piper and Alison could go into business, using the panties as a front for drug smuggling.
  • Cosima would get together with Alex now that she's single again. They even look similar.
  • Rachel would take over Litchfield and try to get all the women to carry Helena's babies.
  • Helena and Red could talk about everyone in Russian.
  • The guards are really Neolutionist monitors.
  • Alison could work with Caputo to campaign for better conditions.
  • Tony and Stella could be an interesting match. Stella could help him look more like a boy. Or Tony and Sophia could lament about transitioning to the other gender.
  • Helena would "get a refund" from Leanne, anyone who bullied Sophia, and Coates. She'd even join Vinnie to go after Christopher. (Too bad Vee isn't around anymore for her to mess with.)
  • Alison and Poussey get drunk together.
  • I've noticed that I haven't fit Sarah anywhere in here. Honestly, I don't know where or how she'd really get involved. Maybe being on the outside and trying to break the other clones out by pretending to be them to throw off the guards?
Any other ideas? 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Read all about it!

Back in 1992, the Disney movie musical Newsies first came to theaters. Since I was a Disney fanatic, of course I went to see it. While the story felt a bit dry to me, the music stuck in my head and I couldn't let go of it. My cousin, who worked for Disney records at the time, gave us the soundtrack and we played it constantly. He also would tell us, every time we saw him, that the soundtrack had better sales than the movie. The movie never grew on me, even when I watched it with my husband for the first time, so he'd have something to talk about with his sister-in-law (his brother's wife), since it was her favorite movie. Oddly enough, I searched tons of video stores (yes, those still existed) in order to find a copy for rent or purchase. My husband didn't get into the movie much either, but he also loved the music. It became our soundtrack of choice anytime we went on road trips. We would even change around some of the words to our liking.

Here's a trailer of the movie, in case you don't know much about it:

When Newsies became a stage musical a few years ago, I was initially reluctant to see it. However, a few people who saw it told me that it was different from the movie and that they enjoyed it a lot. So when we found out it was coming to DC, we decided to splurge and make it a Father's Day/early birthday (for me) outing. And the verdict is....

We both loved it! The stage version is different from the movie in many ways.

*They changed the lyrics to the songs we knew and replaced other songs completely. (Both the songs Medda--Ann Margret's character--sings in the movie are eliminated and she's given a new song instead.) What's also interesting is that the verse that was eliminated from "Carrying the Banner" when the movie went to video was put back into the stage version. (Starts with "It takes a smile as sweet as butter...") It was still hard not to sing or hum along though and now the songs are in my head!

*New songs were added to enhance the story line instead of it only being a few songs with lots of dialogue. Pulitzer even got to sing.

*The characters were more sympathetic in the stage version. I felt more of an emotional connection to them than I ever felt from the movie. (Sorry, Christian Bale!)

*There was a lot of humor. Definitely necessary for a stage musical!

*They replaced Denton (Bill Pullman's character from the movie) with a woman named Katherine. I originally thought I was not going to like this change, but again, it enhanced the story. Katherine was far more interesting than Denton and even had her own motivations. She represented female empowerment, as well.

*Really, it was like they took the story line from the movie, stripped it to its bare bones, and re-imagined it for stage. Not only that, they made the whole newsboy strike seem interesting and relevant, as well as easy to follow. (Maybe it's just me, but it still feels confusing in the movie.)

What is really amazing about the stage musical version is the set. The pieces would move all over the place,  come apart, be used as film screens, etc. I loved how so much was visual. There was one part where Jack was drawing a picture and you could see it come to life on one of the screens as he was drawing it. They did some other neat things with the screens, as well. The only drawback is with so much visualization, it was distracting from watching the action on stage. My eyes can only be in so many places at once and it was just too much sometimes. It could have also been due to sitting so close and viewing everything from below. I had to crane my neck to see the action at the high part of the set.

The stage during intermission
As for the acting, I really liked the guy who played Jack. While I know Jeremy Jordan originally played the role on Broadway, I thought this guy did an amazing job stepping into his shoes, so to speak. He was interesting to watch and had a great voice. He's on Twitter, in case you want to see who I'm talking about. (In his main picture, he looks like a young James Frain, but maybe that's because I just watched Orphan Black and am somehow meshing his face with Ferdinand's?)

The guy who played Crutchy seemed more likable than the one in the movie, who reminded me of Screech at the time. This one just seemed more sweet and vulnerable, even though he had some comical moments too.

The kid who played Les was adorable. His bio said he was also Gavroche in Les Miz (for a regional cast) and I can totally picture that!

Medda was played by an understudy, but she did well enough that I thought she had frequent experience in the role.

All the guys did an amazing job with their dancing, singing, and acting, as well as providing a lot of comic relief. The guy who played Max Casella's part (Racetrack, called "Race" in this version) was a lot of fun to watch.

In lieu of keeping things positive and also because everyone has a different opinion when it comes to acting or singing, I've only chosen to talk about the people who really stood out to me as favorites. There were some people I wasn't as impressed with, but still did a nice job and played their roles professionally. The only thing that confused me was when the various newsboys seemed to play a bunch of different characters. Like they'd be a local newsboy from Manhattan one moment and then a newsboy from the Bronx the next. Either that, or everyone just looked alike.

Overall, I had a great time seeing Newsies and it really enhanced the story and music for me. I recommend it if you're looking for an entertaining day (or evening) of musical theater. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

View of the stage before the musical starts

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Book Review: The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

Who doesn't scream for ice cream? It's one of my favorite desserts and we always keep some stocked in our freezer. Running out of ice cream is like a travesty in our house. When I first heard about The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman, I knew I had to check it out, especially since there were Jewish elements involved. While the length didn't appeal to my book club and the genre didn't fit my book blog, I was looking for a reason to put all my other reading aside for it. (I have to prioritize with all the reviewing I do.) Then I got an opportunity to interview Susan Jane Gilman for The Jewish Food Experience blog and thought that now would be a good time to give the book a whirl (or perhaps a swirl, in this case).

In 1913, little Malka Treynovsky flees Russia with her family. Bedazzled by tales of gold and movie stardom, she tricks them into buying tickets for America. Yet no sooner do they land on the squalid Lower East Side of Manhattan, than Malka is crippled and abandoned in the street.

Taken in by a tough-loving Italian ices peddler, she manages to survive through cunning and inventiveness. As she learns the secrets of his trade, she begins to shape her own destiny. She falls in love with a gorgeous, illiterate radical named Albert, and they set off across America in an ice cream truck. Slowly, she transforms herself into Lillian Dunkle, "The Ice Cream Queen" -- doyenne of an empire of ice cream franchises and a celebrated television personality.

Lillian's rise to fame and fortune spans seventy years and is inextricably linked to the course of American history itself, from Prohibition to the disco days of Studio 54. Yet Lillian Dunkle is nothing like the whimsical motherly persona she crafts for herself in the media. Conniving, profane, and irreverent, she is a supremely complex woman who prefers a good stiff drink to an ice cream cone. And when her past begins to catch up with her, everything she has spent her life building is at stake.
(Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

As soon as I opened the book, I was immediately drawn in to Malka's world. She narrates the story through her 75 year-old voice and personality (as Lillian), so there's a lot of wit and humor that wouldn't have been prevalent if she narrated it throughout the time she was coming of age. She uses the word "darlings" to address her audience, and I just love that for some reason. It makes me feel like I'm talking with a long lost relative.

Susan really did a lot of research that comes out in all the detail she uses throughout the story. I really felt like I was right there and could practically taste the ice cream Lillian was selling. It made me want to go back in time to when my grandparents were growing up. I also enjoyed reading about how businesses came about before the Internet existed. (This is coming from someone who doesn't get what people did at work before computers existed.)

Malka/Lillian ranks up there with Wally Lamb's Dolores Price (from She's Come Undone) on my well-developed and incredible characters list. I could easily see them being friends if they were part of the same story. I had to keep closing the cover to make sure I was still reading a book, as Malka/Lillian felt so realistic. Susan wasn't afraid to put her flaws and imperfections out there and allow her to be seen as an unreliable narrator upon whom I could still rely. I hated to love her, honestly. She reminded me of myself in some ways and of people I know in other ways. And she was so easily sympathetic, even when she was at her worst behavior. The only critique I have is that there were too many names to keep track of and I forgot about some people and their significance to the story after a while. However, this didn't detract from my enjoyment in the slightest.

Aside from that, the story had a Forrest Gump feel, as it spanned over a long period of time and incorporated the characters into real historical events, as well as incorporated celebrities and politicians into a fictional story. The other reason is because it was a well told and compelling story that I could easily enjoy on the big screen. I was sort of casting it into my head, but because it spanned so much time, it was hard to stick with one character. I could see June Gable (who played Estelle on Friends) as 75 year-old Lillian as she's narrating the story. I also pictured Mayim Bialik playing Lillian in her 30s and 40s. I pictured Ty Burrell as a middle-aged Albert ("Bert").

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, overall, is an incredibly written book that is giving me a book hangover the way a delicious ice cream cone gives me an ice cream headache. Well worth devouring, in either case. As Lillian might say, "Darlings, how is it that you haven't read this yet?" Well, if your beach bag is full and you don't have the space for the hardcover version, have no fear...it will be available in paperback July 7th. So grab your favorite ice cream flavors and be prepared not to leave your favorite reading chair for a while.

Thanks to Grand Central Publishing for the book in exchange for an honest review. Visit the Jewish Food Experience blog to meet Susan.

Disclosure of Material Connection:
Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Age is just a number...

Ever since I heard about Younger coming to TV Land this past spring, I knew it was a show I had to watch. The premise seemed so clever and it had a chick lit feel to it, which I always appreciate. And given that it was written, directed, and executive produced by Darren Star, who is well known for Sex and the City, I was definitely on board.

Younger follows 40-year-old Liza (Broadway's Sutton Foster), a suddenly single mother who tries to get back into the working world, only to find out it's nearly impossible to start at the bottom at her age. When a chance encounter with a 20-something guy at a bar convinces her she looks younger than she is, Liza tries to pass herself off as 26 -- with the help of a makeover, courtesy of her best friend Maggie (Debi Mazar). Armed with new confidence, she lands a job as an assistant to the temperamental Diana (Miriam Shor) and teams up with her new co-worker and fellow 20-something Kelsey (Hilary Duff) to make it in the career of her dreams. (Courtesy of TV Land's website.)


I'm keeping this as spoiler-free as possible.....

Soon after watching the first episode, I found out that a bunch of my friends were also enjoying this show. There were some I e-mailed with weekly to talk about (and, of course, dissect) each episode. While the series started off being more on the raunchy humor side, it soon smoothed out into focusing on Liza's career and romantic life. That's when it became even better than it already was! Liza is a sympathetic character who is easy to relate to. Toss in an interesting blend of friends, a hot romantic interest (played by Nico Tortorella), insight to the publishing industry, and a boss that makes Miranda Priestly seem like a kitten and you have one amazing show that I looked forward to watching every week.

What I really loved was how Liza felt torn about the lie she was spinning, especially when it became a hindrance to her career. I could imagine what it would be like to convince people you're in your 20s, only to want to be able to share that you know what it's like to be 40 (or close to it). There's another 14-plus years of living you've already done and can't even boast about. That added a lot of substance to the story in contrast to her not knowing how to use Twitter (which seems kind of unrealistic since all age groups seem to be on there). It seemed like she was seen as a joke to people who actually believed she was in her 20s. Only people who actually were in their 20s took her seriously (with the exception of Maggie, since she knew her true age).

There was a good level of humor in the show. It wasn't overpowering, but once it got past the sexual jokes, it was witty and had me laughing out loud. Like when Liza told the guy she's seeing that she looked like Punky Brewster, she had to quickly correct it, lest she give away her age. She also slipped up about seeing Nirvana in concert. I also enjoyed the tension that was building up in relation to her big lie, both for her love life and her career.

As for the supporting characters, I want to talk in detail about the main players...

Josh (Tortorella) was definitely well cast as Liza's romantic interest. He's a mix of adorable and sexy. He has a rebellious appeal that I would have been attracted to in my 20s. His immaturity could be annoying at times, like when he was with his friends, but he also was sincere and seemed older than his age when he was serious about something.

Maggie (Mazar) reminded me of Rosie O'Donnell when she was in Sleepless in Seattle. However, she was much edgier and seemed like a true friend to put up with all of the craziness in Liza's life. She became Liza's cheerleader while also staying true to her own identity.

Kelsey (Duff) is definitely girl crush-worthy. She's beautiful and confident and also a true friend to Liza, even though she unwittingly threw Liza under the bus a couple of times. I just hope she realizes she deserves better than her boyfriend, whom I didn't like from the first time he appeared on the show. Her fresh-faced, actual 20-something excitement kept the momentum going on the show.

Lauren (Molly Bernard) came off as really annoying in the first few episodes, but then I enjoyed having her around. Not sure I'd condone having a "Hot Mitzvah," but she definitely adds to the humor element. Most girls would feel threatened if their best friend (Kelsey, in this case) was hanging out with someone new, but she seemed to embrace Liza and even helped Maggie out when she was in a pinch. I don't see her as someone I'd personally hang out with, as she'd probably wear on my nerves quickly, but she'd probably grow on me eventually. She seems to know what's hot and new right away and was definitely an asset for Liza to have around.

Diana (Shor) is the character I love to hate from this series. She's just so awful and I don't know how Liza puts up with her at all. I have to give credit to Miriam Shor that she plays an awful character really well. There was only one time she was nice, but I felt it was still self-serving in a way. Every cutting remark she made to Liza was just cringe-worthy. I really hope someone puts her in her place next season.

There are also some characters that were on for several episodes. The one I (also) love to hate from that group is Swedish author Anton Bjornberg (Thorbjørn Harr). He is just so creepy in the way he was coming on to Kelsey, whether she invited the attention or not. He disappeared from the series after an incidental episode, but nothing else happened with that story line, which makes me wonder if he'll try to come back next season. (Hope he doesn't and they just write him off in some way to give viewers some closure.)  The one I like a lot was Charles (Peter Hermann). He plays Diana's boss and even though she has a crush on him, it's obvious that he's more interested in Liza. I could see there being a romantic conflict that involves him next season, should the writers put that in somehow. I really like the romantic tension between him and Liza and it made me want her to tell him her real age so that he wouldn't just think of her as Diana's assistant.

If you haven't seen Younger yet and are still interested after reading this. you can find all the episodes here. There are only 12 and they're about 20 minutes long. Perfect for binge watching!

Finally, I want to applaud Pamela Redmond Satran for writing the book, as it makes a great TV series. I haven't read the book, but I was told that the two are pretty close other than a few name changes.

I'm already eagerly awaiting season two!

Disclosure of Material Connection:
Some of the links in this post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, June 5, 2015

The city never sleeps...and neither did I!

As you may already know, I spent part of last week in New York. I was mainly there for Book Expo America (BEA), but I went in early and spent some time with friends and even got to see a family member.

I took the Peter Pan bus to the city on Tuesday afternoon and somehow ended up with a seat to myself. That was a nice surprise! When I arrived, I navigated the subway system to get to my friend's apartment on the Upper East Side. Thankfully, she told me which train to take, which direction to take it, and where to get out. I would have been totally lost otherwise. (It helped that the train I was on was modernized to light up which stop we were at each time.) Then I walked several blocks to her place and somehow managed to get a random chunk of hair stuck on one of my luggage wheels. Only in New York, right? I found my friend's place easily and we had fun catching up for a few hours. She showed me around the top level of her building too. Then it was time for my night on the town.

After getting out of the subway on 50th, I headed to the Gershwin Theater to meet up with "Will" as he was getting out of the show he was seeing (Fun Home, which he really liked). This was my first time seeing him in SIX years, but it somehow felt like no time had been lost. It's amazing how that happens! Of course, the first thing we did was take selfies in Times Square.

Then we headed over to Christopher Street and got ice cream before going to Marie's Crisis Cafe. It's a piano bar where everyone stands around and sings Broadway music. If I weren't so tired, I could have easily stayed all night. Franca, the girl playing piano that night, was so much fun. She was really good on the piano and used an iPad to access all her "sheet" music. She took requests too. That has to be an awesome job....to play Broadway songs all night for a bunch of gay men.  I got to hear (and sing along with) most of my favorites from Little Shop of Horrors, Grease, Avenue Q, A Chorus Line, Rent, Les Miz, etc. She didn't play anything from Wicked while we were there, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did at some point that night. The guys there were awesome. They were getting into the roles for each song. There was this nice woman sitting by me who kept saying that she had to leave soon but didn't want to. Then there was this other woman across from us who reminded me of my mom (who would have loved being there too). I still get show tunes in my head from that evening, as does "Will." We text each other about the songs. (I got one from him recently about "It Sucks to Be Me" from Avenue Q. And I was singing "One" from A Chorus Line while doing some housework.) Needless to say, I got back to my friend's place pretty late. I was impressed that she was still awake. 

The next morning, I headed into Times Square to meet up with "Will" again. We hung out at Shubert Alley to see "Stars in the Alley,"a free outdoor show to introduce the 2014-2015 Broadway season through various songs. It was crowded and we were pretty far back, so I had trouble getting clear pictures. However, I now know that my iPhone camera has a zoom feature. Why I didn't know this before is beyond me! I tried to get some pictures of Darren Criss (was on Glee and is currently in Hedwig and the Angry Inch) and Christian Borle (was on Smash and now is in Something Rotten).

Darren Criss as master of ceremonies

Christian Borle performing a song from Something Rotten
After the show, "Will" and I went out for lunch, where we were finally able to just sit and chat for a while. It was so wonderful to catch up with him. We went to a Broadway souvenir shop, but everything was insanely pricey. ($12.50 for a MAGNET?!?) Then we parted ways so he could go see Something Rotten and I headed to Battery Park to meet my mother-in-law at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where she is the Chief Development Officer.

When I arrived in Battery Park, I somehow managed to get myself totally lost and Google Maps was NOT helpful at all. I felt bad because I knew my MIL had a meeting at 3:00. However, she came out to help me find my way there and told me her meeting ended up getting cancelled. Besherte! So I got a nice tour of the museum, even though it was brief because I was heading to the book parties afterward. It was still amazing though. I really liked the personable feeling of the displays. There was more to them than just a card stating some facts. Each item and picture had a whole story behind it that was captured in an emotional way. I think if I had a more in depth tour, I would have been a sobbing mess afterward! Overall, I was very impressed and can see why she is so happy there. I got to meet some of the staff she works with, and everyone was very friendly.

(Side note: Today is my MIL's birthday and she's here for the weekend so we can all celebrate together!)

For the next part of my trip, check out my BEA post. (Hey, I could have just said "yada yada yada.")

When I got back to my friend's place after a very busy Thursday morning and afternoon, we just chilled out and had our favorite kind of pizza and really good watermelon. We were in tears laughing about some funny stories about my kids. I even got to meet her boyfriend. (I always feel weird saying "boyfriend" now that we're all adults and out of college, but "significant other" sounds too stiff and "guy she's dating" sounds too casual.) He was really nice and if I weren't so exhausted, I probably would have enjoyed chatting with him even more.

With my friend (and fabulous host for the week)

The next morning, I woke up early to catch the 8:30 a.m. Peter Pan bus back home. I first went to the wrong bus terminal area, but then found the correct one. I definitely got my exercise schlepping around an extremely heavy suitcase full of books.

Overall, it was a wonderful and very memorable visit. I can't believe it's already been a week! Thanks again to everyone who made my trip so special, and that includes all the people I wrote about in my BEA post.

A view of the ball from New Year's Eve.

Times Square...I love all the Broadway signs!

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for over a year, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, Darwin Shrugged chose the topic: Write about a guilty pleasure and why you enjoy it so.

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

I recently saw a post from Humans of New York (on Facebook) where a mother of three kids talks about how she takes a little time for herself each day, even if it's just flipping through a fashion magazine in a café. Her post definitely resounded with me because I find my "me time" to be a guilty pleasure in itself. It's really more than that...I thrive on spending time by myself. I could be shopping, watching a girly movie or TV show, reading, taking a bath, etc. Even before I met my husband, there were times I would just shut off my phone and lights and have a movie marathon.

I think the reason I like watching movies and TV shows that are mostly geared toward women is because it gives me some time by myself. There are some shows I know my husband won't watch and I call them guilty pleasures, even though the act of watching them is more of the guilty pleasure in the long run. My husband tries to pull a guilt trip on me by saying he'd watch a chick flick with me even though I won't watch an action or sci-fi flick with him. I try to just focus on things we like to watch together. Orphan Black has the perfect blend for both of us to enjoy. We also like watching comedies and some psychological thrillers or Oscar nominees. There are way too many movies out there and if he waits for me to watch most of those with him, he'll be waiting a loooooong time.

Another reason I like to watch movies by myself sometimes is that I only have my own opinion to go with when they're done. I saw a movie with my mom and sister recently and afterward, my mom was complaining about some parts of it. While I enjoyed the movie, the stuff she pointed out took away from that enjoyment. However, I still had the gorgeous actor from one of my favorite shows to keep the good memories of the movie going in my mind.

There are times when all I want to do is read. Especially on Shabbat, when I don't have to worry about checking e-mail or taking phone calls. I'm thankful that my kids like to play together on their own, which affords me some reading time. My husband isn't as much of a reader, but sometimes he'll delve into a Jewish book. Most of the time, he wants to talk. I love talking and joking around with him, but I also want some time to read too. Then I feel guilty for wanting to read, especially when my book is really good and hard to put down. A friend of mine suggested a different type of book club where we wouldn't discuss books, but instead lay around on comfortable chairs and couches and just read whatever we feel like without worrying about anyone else needing anything. I keep telling her that we should actually do this! As much as I love to read, with everything that goes on during the week, sometimes I just have to carve out the time or it never gets done. When I'm at work, I usually read on my lunch break. The break room is nice for sitting in and reading, but I also like going outside in nice weather, as long as it's not too windy. I sometimes feel guilty about wanting to read when other people are in the break room and want to talk. I try to make polite conversation, but then I'm relieved when someone else comes in to take over so I can get back to my book. I do have social lunches sometimes, so I'm not a complete hermit!

A while back, I challenged my blog project group to write about their ideal "me day." I had way too much fun imagining what mine would be like. And it's not just because I have kids around me all the time at home. I just think it's nice to treat myself to something special that only I would enjoy. I even referenced an article about things that are more fun when done alone.

While I love my husband, children, family, friends, etc., I still feel it is so important to have my alone time, even if it's just when I'm exercising in the morning. I definitely think it allows me to retain my individuality while still giving parts of myself to everyone else in my life.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cruel to be kind

Sometimes I only get the chance to blog once a week. And since I can't always get up the motivation to think of a topic, it's nice to have other friends to blog with so we can take turns. I enjoy being challenged to write about stuff that might not normally come to mind and also reading everyone else's thoughts on the same topic. Blog Project 3.0 has been going on for over a year, even though one of the group members changed after a few months. I love blogging with this group and I hope we can continue to inspire each other.

This week, Froggie chose the topic:  Great strengths that are also great weaknesses 

First, read what everyone else had to share on this topic. I will be only posting links to posts on this same topic from my group. So check back if you were hoping to read their blogs and don't see a link yet.

Darwin Shrugged
Moma Rock

This topic was a challenge for me. I was first thinking about how when you go to a job interview, you tell people your weaknesses based on strengths. (Ex. "Too much of a perfectionist.") Then I gave it some more thought and came up with one that fits the bill....KINDNESS.

In this day and age, I think it takes a lot of strength to be kind vs. being mean. It's easy to be mean. I even have my mean moments (at least my kids think so). Kindness takes a lot of patience and vigilance. You have to think before you act. Would the world be a better place if everyone were kind? Sure. However, movies would be so boring without a villain. I was thinking about the recent version of Cinderella and how her mother tells her to always be kind. Even when dealing with her evil stepmother and spoiled stepsisters, she somehow maintains her kind demeanor. If I were her, I would have been exacting revenge on them any chance I got! Of course, it's a fairy tale so kindness wins out. However, my own level of kindness has not gone unnoticed and has been rewarded in some ways, even when I wasn't looking for such rewards. It's nice to get a shout-out from someone just for being my kind self. :)

On the other hand, kindness can render someone weak. It's so easy to be stepped on and treated poorly when you're always kind. Especially if you excuse such behaviors in an effort to not hurt the feelings of someone who could care less about hurting yours. It's also easy to be taken for granted, like that you'll always be kind. When you have a bad day and lash out about it, it's somehow a huge shock because you're almost expected to be pleasant all the time. It leads to passivity and the concept that "nice girls (or guys) finish last."

In the long run, I'd rather be known for being kind than for being a cut-throat go-getter. I have my ambitions, but I'm not about to step on someone to get what I want. I just have to find the delicate balance between being kind and not being stepped on in return.