1. Funny TV Shows – The Mindy Project and Arrested Development: I think I’ve already confessed to being obsessed with The Mindy Project, but I must say it got even better later in the season. The writing is very witty and smart, to the point where sometimes you have to pause and rewind because you miss some great one-liners. As for Arrested Development, I must admit to having never seen the prior three seasons before the weeks leading up to the Netflix release of Season 4. I was just blown away by the clever writing and character development. Of course, Season 4 was not the same caliber of the previous seasons, mostly because they went for a different format to accomodate, perhaps, for the big time gap. But, I still laughed!
2. Anne of Green Gables Trilogy: The first two of these mini-series originally aired in the mid-to-late 1980s. And it is a safe bet that at least one out of every two of your girl friends, if they are my age and in their 30s, will remember watching them on PBS; and if they are like me, will have developed a small crush on the character Gilbert Blythe. Earlier this year, I discovered a good friend of mine, Susie, shared my childhood enjoyment of the tv series, and of course I ordered a boxed set off of Amazon so that we could have a movie night. As a bonus, the actor who played Gilbert, Jonathan Crombie, just happened to be starring in a play up in Baltimore this spring. Susie and I caught a matinee show one weekend, and had a chance to briefly talk to Jonathan after the show – and take a photo with him, obviously! Oh Gil!
3. Guitars, Mandolins, Banjos, Banjolins…oh my! I’ve been having a great time learning how to play guitar since I first started my lessons back in February. The guitar I’ve been playing is one I purchased back in college, and while it’s a reputable brand (Washburn) it is definitely on the lower end for sound – essentially affordable quality. So I was on the lookout for a better quality guitar, and had my eye on the ones manufactured since 1833 by C.F. Martin & Co. in Nazareth, PA. Some very famous musicians are owners of Martin guitars, like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Eric Clapton, and John Mayer just to name a few. When we were in Nashville the other weekend, I can’t tell you how many display cases at the Country Music Hall of Fame housed vintage Martin guitars. Of course, which one to choose, right? When I met Marcus Mumford in early June, this was part of our conversation because he has always played Martin guitars (I think he has two twin D-28s that I’ve read he nicknamed Mary Kate and Ashley, but I’m not sure if that’s true). He convinced me to try out the D-28 because of its rich base tones and its “within reach” price range. I ended up getting one, on sale nonetheless, the next week! There was an HD-28 version as well, but while the sound was more mature, it overpowered the vocalist a little too much. Plus, mine should sounds similar in a few years after it matures. Anyway, I can’t tell you what a difference it makes in the sound quality of my playing, and of course when you feel like you’re sounding good, you’re going to be encouraged to play more, right? On that note, when I was in Nashville, I visited a vintage instrument shop called Fanny’s House of Music in East Nashville. They had old banjos, ukuleles, banjoleles, and banjolins in addition to normal acoustic guitars and electric guitars and basses. But I was after a used mandolin, and vintage mandolins, I discovered, cost more than what I was hoping – even at the pawn shop I visited down the street. While I didn’t end up finding what I wanted in Nashville, I did buy a cheap Washburn Mandolin off of Amazon, and I am having a lot of fun with it. Of course, I’m pretty much sticking to fun songs with the same 4 chords for now – C, D, G, Em. You’d be surprised at how many songs I can play (that should not be played on a mandolin, by the way)….Taylor Swift, Outkast’s “Hey Ya,” Lady Gaga….
4. F’real Milkshake Machines: On my recent trip up to Gettysburg for the reenactment, we stopped at a Sheetz gas station on the way back to Washington D.C. There are no Sheetz gas stations inside or near the D.C. beltway, so it was quite a surprise when I went in and saw they have a milkshake machine. What??!! You select your pre-made flavor from a small freezer below the mixing machines, then peel back and remove the top. You then place the cup in the holder and select your milkshake thickness preference. A minute later, after your cup has traveled up into the machine like it was abducted by an alien spaceship, your milkshake comes out blended, ready to eat/drink. I chose the always healthy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup flavor. Next time I’m going to check the calories on the side of the carton before I spoon that last bit into my mouth. Oops! Thank goodness there are no F’real machines nearby.
5. YouTube to Mp3 Converters: I’m quite positive these websites have been around for awhile, but I’m only just discovering them. I’ve always wished that I could somehow take a song I found on YouTube and make it part of a playlist on my iTunes. Don’t get me wrong, I still purchase legitimate, published music legally to support the artists. The songs I’m talking about are the unique performances from live shows, bootlegs, cover songs, and early work that never made it to an album or is out of print. As a result of this discovery, my Mumford & Sons playlist has become a whole lot longer and includes my favorite M&S early song, The Banjolin Song. You may have to search around on Google to see which converter you like the best.