TV Pick of the Week: Bunheads (TV Thursday)

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Growing up, I remember that from May to September I had the choice of watching reruns of all the TV shows from the year or nothing at all. Not that I minded watching Seinfeld or Friends reruns.  But in the last six years (according to a CNN article I read) the "Summer Series" seems to have gotten more and more popular.  The pro of these series is that there is something to watch in the summer, but the con is that the seasons are usually short! Eight to 15 episodes is not enough when you’re just getting into a great new show.  Some networks bring the shows back in the winter, but other times you have to wait a whole year!

This summer, I watched the entire season of Bunheads (ABC Family). To summarize, this show starts out with a down-on-her luck, washed-up but never quite made it dancer, Michelle, who is working as a Vegas showgirl.  Michelle (Sutton Foster) is pursued consistently by Hubbell (Alan Ruck).  Michelle finally gives in, lets him take her out and with the help of some alcohol, they get married in a shot-gun Vegas wedding.  Shortly after arriving in Paradise, his hometown, Hubbell dies in a car crash.  Michelle ends up inheriting everything; the house which her Mother-in-law lives in, the dance studio that her MIL teaches at and a huge piece of property with a guest house that Michelle moves into.  Not far into the season, Michelle and Fanny (Kelly Bishop, Hubbell's Mother) develop an interesting rapport with quick witty banter.  Sometimes Michelle’s quirkiness goes on a little too long, but I can overlook it.
Cast of Bunheads
Back Row (l to r): Melanie, Fanny, Michelle, Sasha
Front (l to r): Boo, Jenny
Photo Credit:
The other central characters are four of Miss Fanny's ballet students: Sasha, Boo, Melanie and Jenny. Sasha is the talk, skinny and “best” ballerina, Boo is the technically excellent but a little too large ballerina, and Melanie and Jenny round out the foursome.  Over time Michelle becomes sort of a mentor/counselor type of figure to them.  I was glad that the writers added more of the girls' lives into the show as the season progressed.

At first I was a little skeptical, but eventually I really started to enjoy the series for its summertime lightness.  The dialogue is reminiscent of Amy Sherman Palladino's writing for Gilmore Girls. You will notice a lot of subtle similarities between them and it’s nice to see Kelly Bishop in a more likable role; although it will never be GG.

If you like typical ABC Family shows, Gilmore Girls or maybe if you used to do ballet, I would Shariously recommend Bunheads, (assuming it comes back on the air).

Trip to Maine (Vacation Recap Part 2)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

We last left off in Part 1 when we arrived at the apartment.  Turns out this apartment, was originally built as an in-law suite above the garage of the proprietors who live in the house next door.  When the husband's mother passed away a few years ago, the couple began renting it out.  Overall, the apartment was great!  It was a 1-bedroom with a full kitchen, living room, breakfast nook, washer/dryer and deck with a grill, hammock and fire pit.  The unit was a few hundred feet from Sebago Cove where they had a row boat and canoe for our use.  After checking in, we went to Walmart for some groceries so we could save money on breakfast, lunch and one dinner.  Also, turned out that the homeowner's association was having a "drive-in movie" and all the local vacationing kids drove their golf carts down to the lake's beach area where a movie screen was set up and popcorn was popping in the nearby pavilion. It felt like camp!

On our way back we stopped for some ice cream, because what's a vacation without nightly ice cream from the local spot.  We also got to walk around the town of Naples which had a few restaurants, shops and mini-golf.

For our first full day in Maine we slept in, made breakfast and enjoyed the fresh air!  We went down to the lake to make use of the rowboat, only to discover we really didn't know how to operate the rowboat - especially when it came to navigating it through 10-15 other pontoon boats docked.  We put the boat back and tried again with the canoe.  We were much more successful with the canoe.  We paddled almost all the way to the far end of the lake and back.  Back on land we went for a swim and enjoyed the "beach" area.

After lunch we drove over to the locks where boats pass from one lake to another (someone remind me to tell my funny "locks" story sometime).  What was cool about these locks were they were operated completely manually - looked like a summer college intern.
Boats waiting for the water to rise at the locks
Later, back in town we took a ride on the Songo River Queen II, where we got a narrated tour of Long Lake (a long lake connected to the Big Sebago).  For dinner we ventured north to the next town and then stopped for ice cream, of course.
View of town of Naples from River Queen
Our second day on the lake was spent at Sebago State park which has a beach.  We lounged around early in the day and bought some tubes to use on the lake. The rest of the afternoon was spent back on the canoe, grilling  up some dogs and mini-golf in town. We switched things up a bit and our dessert was s'mores by the campfire instead of the ice cream.
View from Beach at Sebago State Park
Stay tuned for Part 3 as I conclude the Maine recap.

Trip to Maine (Vacation Recap Part 1)

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

After a late spring early summer with weekends that were so jam packed with bridal showers, bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers and other scheduled activities my fiancĂ© (herein referred to as AG) and I booked a vacation!  We hadn't taken more than a long weekend since our cruise last October so a 5-day trip was much needed.  With the weather in NY being unbearably hot this summer I needed something cooler, something to the north.  AG and I always talk about trips to Maine we had taken with our families when we were younger, but never made the trip up together.   I looked up a bunch of hotels in southern Maine and quickly realized that Maine in August is a hot destination and lacking any good hotel deals.  I'd long been wanting to try Homeaway and this was the perfect opportunity.  A quick Homeaway search turned up a bunch of places to stay at the same price or less than staying at a hotel.  After saving some "favorites," we reviewed and settled on a 1-bedroom apartment near Lake Sebago.

We headed up on a Friday night with reservations outside of Boston - we left late enough and avoided the masses of other folks leaving for the weekend and didn't hit much traffic, and did make one stop at Friendly's for the bathroom and a sundae.  We got a late start on Saturday morning; hey it was vacation, so we wanted to sleep in a little. We didn't drive far before realizing that everyone on the eastern seaboard also thought Maine would be a great August vacation.  Traffic was slow moving on I-95 so we figured we'd take a scenic detour and spend the time seeing something other than the back of the same car for 100 miles.

We ended up on US-1 driving right along the east coast of Mass and NH.  We discovered the odd town of Hampton, NH which I'd never heard of and had a mixture of Jersey Shore and a North Carolina feel - not at all what I would have expected.
View from car of Hampton, NH
After the detour, we were back on I-95 and still slowly making our way into Maine and getting hungry (it had been a few hours since our breakfast stop at IHOP). Our first Maine stop - Ogunquit, a quintessential Maine town.  There's lobster on the water, sailboats in harbor and plenty of souvenir, candy and antique shops to satisfy the typical tourist.  We walked around, had dinner at the well-known Barnacle Billy's for our first lobster of the trip.
First lobster of the vacation

View of Ogunquit harbor

After some time in Ogunquit, we headed to find our home for the next few days in Naples, ME. Stay tuned for Vacation Recap Part 2 and 3 to hear about our lake adventures and Maine attractions.

Roomba (Want It Wednesday)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You know what I want, and absolutely don't need - well, it's obvious from the post title, a Roomba.  Having a little Roomba would be the opposite of having a pet, it follows you around but picks up after itself.  About once a month I see Roomba on Woot and always am on the brink of buying it, but decide I really don't need it.  But this post is "Want it" not "Need it" so I can dream, warranted or not.   For those of you reading who don't know me, I have A LOT of hair.  It's not that it's particularly long, but I just have a lot of it.  Consequently it's all over the place all the time.  Once a week I run around the apartment with the Dustbuster and can swear I collect about an entire head of hair off the floor and still manage to have a full head of hair on my head.  Maybe the Roomba would help keep the place tidy.

Also, if you don't know about Woot, check it out - a deal a day type of site, the best one out there for electronics/home goods type of things.  Other than Woot, RueLaLa would be my favorite! I have scored some of my favorite pairs of shoes clothes and accessories from it.  And if you're not a member I am more than happy to refer you, since it would also score me some credit.

I got off topic - but if anyone has a Roomba, can you please let me know how you like it.  The woot deals usually sell refurbished versions for about half off - is it worth it?  Do they last long?  Does the novelty wear off quickly or do you use it often? Shariously let me know about the Roomba!  Thanks.

Homeland (TV Pick of the Week)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

During the summer, I have about half as many shows that I watch on TV, so I'm always looking for some TV entertainment.  Two months ago when we set up Fios for our new apartment, there was a promotion that included free Showtime.  Shortly after all the regular season shows went off the air,  my fiance and I were having one of those days where we have 200+ channels but there was nothing on TV, so we settled on Homeland (on Showtime).  It was about halfway through the 11th of 12 episodes in season 1, it seemed good and intriguing, but we were lost.

Flash forward to a week ago, we managed to catch the second half of the 2nd episode.  Now were were really intrigued.  Luckily with Showtime, comes Showtime On-Demand.  So we started from the beginning of the season and became addicted!  This show is amazing!  Last weekend we found ourselves caught up in a marathon, we watched about 5 or 6 episodes.  When I found out there were only 12 to watch and the new season doesn't start until September 30, I felt the urge to start pacing ourselves so that we didn't have to go through a 2 month withdrawal.  Now we're back at that 11th episode, so hopefully it'll make some sense when we re-watch.

There are so many twists and turns in this show and I definitely don't want to give anything away, so here's my quick summary which probably doesn't do the show any justice:
Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) is a crazy and crazy smart CIA agent trying to stop terrorism.  Saul Berenson (Mandy Patinkin) is her mentor and colleague. The series starts with the return of Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) to the USA and his family.    Brody was a Prisoner of War for 8 years, was assumed dead and was finally discovered by American Troops.  All three of them have their issues.  The audience quickly finds out that while in Baghdad, Carrie learns "a prisoner of war has been turned." Is it Brody? You will have to watch and see how the story unfolds. 

Brody (Lewis), Carrie (Danes)  and Saul (Patikin) Main Characters L to R,
I Shariously can't expres enough how great this show is.  Also to come - some of the other showtime series' that I've discovered!