Favorites, Television

My Favorite Things: 15 Television Shows

I’ve watched a lot of television in my (almost) 23 years of life. Anyone who knows me is well aware of that fact. And while I’ve always been quick to say “That’s one of my favorites” to a variety of different shows, I’ve never actually made a list. When I sat down to write this, I intended for it to be a Top 10. However, there were some that I just really needed to include. So, without further ado, here is the list nobody really asked for…My Top 15 Television Shows!


1. Friends

I have been watching Friends my entire life. I was only two years old when it started so I truly can’t remember a time when it wasn’t on TV. I didn’t read Harry Potter as a child like a lot of people in my generation (I have since read it, don’t worry). I always say that Friends was my Harry Potter. These six people have been there for me in literally every stage of life. When it ended in 2004, I cried myself to sleep and thought I would never love again. From this list, you can see I was clearly wrong about that. But I’m thankful that Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross will always be there when I most need them.

Favorite Character: Chandler Bing

Favorite Episode: The One Where Everybody Finds Out

Friends is available to stream on Netflix.


West Wing

2. The West Wing

I can’t lie…I probably do love The West Wing more than Friends. However, I have to give it the number 2 spot because it’s been in my life for significantly less time. I watched this show mainly because my best friend asked me to. I knew I would enjoy it, but I had no idea I would fall deeply in love with it. This show combines everything I love into one: politics, smart writing, walk-and-talks, and the most perfect television ensemble of all-time. But most importantly, this show is about a family of people–Jed, Abbey, Leo, Josh, Donna, CJ, Toby, Charlie, and Sam–trying to make the world a better place. It gives me hope that maybe one day we’ll actually have some politicians like them in office.

Favorite Character: Donnatella Moss

Favorite Episode: 20 Hours in America

The West Wing is available to stream on Netflix.

Previous blog posts about The West Wing can be found here and here.


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3. The Office

I recently rewatched all nine seasons of The Office and was immediately taken back to the days when I was deep in the fandom on message boards and OfficeTally. The Office was the first show I can remember binge-watching. It was back in 2007 so I had to do it the old-fashioned way—I purchased the DVDs for seasons 1 through 3. It was a complete obsession that I left behind when Steve Carell exited the show. But as I rewatched it, I really missed those glory days. It’s such an intelligent and hilarious show with the most wonderful cast. I also didn’t hate seasons 8 and 9 nearly as much as I thought I did. I won’t ever forgive them for what they did to Andy Bernard, but everything else about it is pretty perfect. If you can find me a better season of pure comedy than season 2 of The Office, please let me know.

Favorite Character: Pam Beesly

Favorite Episode: The Dundies and The Injury (tie)

The Office is available to stream on Netflix.

A previous blog post about The Office can be found here. (This list has changed a bit since then.)


4. Breaking Bad

Is there a show quite as flawless as Breaking Bad? I have yet to find one. It’s clear from the beginning that Vince Gilligan meticulously planned every facet of this show, and it definitely pays off. Each season builds wonderfully on each other, which made the show better as time went on. That’s rare in television, and I’m glad Gilligan and AMC had the sense to end the show when they did rather than keep it on the air for ratings. It’s the only show in the top fifteen that I continued watching despite the hatred I felt towards the main character and the weekly anxiety I had for Jesse Pinkman and Skyler White. The show is so perfect that it makes all of those things so worth it.

Favorite Character: Jesse Pinkman

Favorite Episode: Ozymandias

Breaking Bad is available to stream on Netflix.


5. Parks and Recreation

The Parks and Recreation that just ended is incredibly different from the Parks and Rec that premiered in 2009, and I could not be more grateful. The first two seasons of this show are a bit rocky. Originally slated as a spinoff of The Office, Parks and Rec truly became its own show by the end of season two. And once the characters were firmly established, Parks and Recreation was an incredible treat about a group of misfits with big dreams to make their crazy town better. Throughout its seven seasons, the show remained optimistic, lighthearted, and genuinely hysterical, culminating with a finale that for any other show, I would have loathed. For Parks and Rec, though, it felt just right.

Favorite Character: April Ludgate

Favorite Episode: Flu Season

Parks and Recreation is available to stream on Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime.

Continue reading “My Favorite Things: 15 Television Shows”

Theatre

The Ten Dollar Founding Father: A Review of Hamilton

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Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton debate the Constitution in the most historically accurate way…with a rap battle. | Photo from The Public Theater.

(Spoiler alerts for American History to follow.)

On January 21, my former theatre professor, Michelle, and I went to see the second preview of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s new show Hamilton at The Public Theater. Miranda’s Tony- and Grammy-award winning musical In the Heights is one of my favorites so I was ecstatic when I heard that he was working on another one. However, when I heard that it would be a hip-hop musical about Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, I was a little hesitant. That’s right, a hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers. How on earth would that work? But I went because I love Miranda’s previous work and I wanted to spend an evening seeing a new show with Michelle. Once Hamilton started, it took about 2 and a half minutes for me to fall absolutely in love with it.

Hamilton tells a story that is often left out of history books. Most people learn that the first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton was shot by Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel, but few people understand what led to the death of Hamilton. In Miranda’s new musical, Aaron Burr (played by Leslie Odom Jr.) serves as the narrator of Hamilton’s (played by Miranda) story. Throughout the musical, Burr claims “I’m the damn fool who shot him” in a heartbreaking yet charismatic way. In a way, Hamilton becomes Aaron Burr’s story as well. Though we certainly know less about Burr’s personal life by the end of the musical than we do Hamilton’s, audiences are still given a glimpse into the mind of Burr. Through Miranda’s brilliant words, we are shown Burr’s hopes and dreams, and later, his regret and sorrow for killing Hamilton.

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s words are simply magical. Hamilton PublicThe flow of his lyrics seem effortless. It’s even easy to believe that Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton settled their debates over the Constitution using rap battles. In the world that Miranda has created for the Founding Fathers, hip-hop makes perfect sense. But Lin-Manuel Miranda doesn’t just excel at hip-hop, rap, and traditional pop music. From his work on both In the Heights and Hamilton, it’s clear that Miranda has a background in musical theatre. The Broadway ballads and rap songs blend together to provide music that can speak to both old and young audiences, to people who grew up with Broadway music and those who have no knowledge of it.

Perhaps Miranda’s biggest triumph in Hamilton, though, is the use of race to tell the story of the early days of the United States. It’s no secret that Hollywood has a problem with white-washing. If you saw Exodus, you watched a white man portray a man who was certainly not white, and you’ve seen the same done in almost any historical and/or Biblical movie. Miranda and his brilliant director Thomas Kail took the opposite approach, in an effort to show that the story of the Founding Fathers belongs to all 1.172693Americans. George Washington, Aaron Burr, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson are all played by people of color. In doing so, the musical brilliantly brings to light issues of slavery and racism in the early days. Combined with the hip-hop style of music, it also makes the audience question race relations today, connecting brilliantly with the current events of Ferguson and police brutality in a time that has been deemed by many to be a “post-racial America.” Lin-Manuel Miranda, a man of Puerto Rican descent who previously wrote a musical about Hispanic immigrant families in New York City, plays Alexander Hamilton who was known as the “immigrant Founding Father.” When Miranda as Hamilton declares “Immigrants, we get the job done!” in one part of the musical, he isn’t just speaking of Hamilton’s assistance in the development of the United States. He’s speaking about the immigrants of today, who risk their lives to work hard in this country every single day and are shown little respect from our politicians and citizens.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has made it clear on social media that he has made some cuts to the show since I saw it, which is perfect since the length was really the only complaint that Michelle and I had. It is obvious that Miranda has put more than six years of hard work into this nearly-flawless show. It’s brilliant, and I can’t wait to see the life it has beyond the Public Theater. The Broadway world will never be the same.

Hamilton is running at The Public Theater through May 3. Broadway previews begin July 13 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, with the official opening on August 6.


 For a little preview, here is Lin-Manuel Miranda performing one of Aaron Burr’s songs for the President and First Lady at An Evening of Poetry, Music & the Spoken Word back in 2009.

Adulthood, Personal

Adulting 101: Budgets

Adulthood sucks. It’s terrifying, stressful, and confusing. My least favorite part, by far, is dealing with finances. Sure, I had to do that when I was a teenager and those four years where I pretended to be an adult in college. However, that mostly included logging onto my banking website and praying I had some money in my account to go to dinner and a movie with my friends. Adulthood means I’m now paying bills my parents once paid for me (thank you, Mom and Dad!), and that’s not fun for anyone. I have rent, cable & internet, electricity & gas, student loans, and Netflix every month. Plus, I need money to buy things like food, clothing, and medicine. Those are all pricey, especially when living in New York City on an entry-level salary.

Luckily, when I moved to NYC, I did a little research and found an amazing budget software called You Need a Budget (YNAB). The software costs $60, which you can pay after a 30-day free trial. I decided to give it a shot, and by the time my trial was over, I realized I wouldn’t survive in this city without it. And after using it for more than eight months, I can truly say this software has saved me a lot more than my original $60 investment.

This is not a screenshot of my YNAB account. If I had $16,000+ in my savings and $29,000 worth of investments, I would cry tears of joy.

YNAB looks kind of intimidating when you first start it. However, it’s actually fairly simple to use and comes with access to free web classes that make budgeting with the program effortless. The software uses 4 basic rules that keep people from living paycheck-to-paycheck as well as help you save money for emergencies, vacations, etc. With YNAB, you assign every dollar in your accounts a job. In doing so, you know exactly how much you have to spend for that month in each category and how much you are able to keep aside for the fun things in life.

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Unlike most budget programs I’ve used in the past, You Need a Budget encourages you to be flexible with your budget (my favorite rule—Rule 3). What you set at the beginning of the month doesn’t have to be what you stick to for the rest of the month. For example, if you budget $100 for groceries but actually spend $150, you can reduce $50 from other categories that you may not be using as much as you thought you would. If you need all of that money, YNAB will deduct it from your spending allotment for the upcoming month. I usually overbudget my electric bill, giving me the opportunity to either save that money for next month’s electricity or add it to another category for the current month. It’s easy to adjust your budget throughout the month and spend only the money that you actually have available without feeling like you’re failing at budgeting.

YNAB requires that you manually enter each transaction into the program so that it can deduct from the appropriate categories in your budget.

You can even easily split transactions into multiple categories! (Example: if you spend money on both groceries and medicine at the grocery store)

When I was researching various budget programs before trying YNAB, this feature seemed to be a negative aspect in a lot of reviews. People wanted something simple that you could import from your bank. However, having to manually input all inflows and outflows of cash really makes you think twice about how much you’re spending. Plus, by entering it the day the transaction is made, YNAB is more updated than your banking website. This is especially helpful when my landlady doesn’t deposit my check for a week or two after I pay my rent, but I need to know how much money I actually have to spend.

In the 9 months I’ve been using this software, I haven’t overspent once. I also haven’t had to transfer any money from my savings account to use for rent or food. In fact, I’ve been able to transfer a significant amount of money into my savings and make a few higher payments than required on my student loans. It truly has been one of the most stress-reducing purchases I’ve ever made. It keeps me organized and relaxed about finances in a city where most people are constantly stressed about it. I highly recommend it!

For $6 off You Need a Budget and to learn more about the program, click here. If you’re a student, you can receive YNAB for free this way. It’s available internationally and can sync to your iPhone and Android for budgeting while traveling.

Television

A 22 Year Old Girl Meets the Most Important Show on TV

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Like a lot of people my age, I grew up watching reruns of Boy Meets World every day after school. The ABC show about Cory Matthews (Ben Savage), Shawn Hunter (Rider Strong), and Topanga Lawrence (Danielle Fishel) was always one of my favorites. Like Cory, I’ve had the same best friend since I was 3 years old, and we’ve gone through life together calling ourselves “Cory and Shawn.” I even ended my high school graduation speech with my favorite quote from Mr. Feeny (William Daniels): “Believe in yourselves, dream, try, do good. I love you all. Class dismissed.”

So, when Disney Channel announced a spinoff show about Cory and Topanga’s daughter, I was skeptical. As we all know, for every spinoff like Frasier, there are 10 spinoffs like Joey, and this was going to be on a children’s network instead of ABC. I felt a little better once Savage and Fishel signed on as series regulars, but I still worried the magic of Boy Meets World would be lost. Eighteen episodes of Girl Meets World later, I’m thrilled to say I was 100% wrong. Honestly, there is a part of me that is starting to like Girl Meets World even more than I like BMW.

I’m so grateful that young kids have the opportunity to watch Girl Meets World. Here are five reasons it is so important to me that they do.

1) A strong female friendship.

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The greatest thing about this show is the friendship between Riley Matthews (Rowan Blanchard) and Maya Hart (Sabrina Carpenter). Blanchard and Carpenter are incredibly talented young ladies who have actually become best friends offscreen, which helps their television friendship seem effortless. From the first episode, it is clear to older fans that these two are meant to be like Cory and Shawn. Riley is a slightly awkward young girl who wants to believe she’s as rebellious as her best friend. Maya is the cool and calm best friend whose single parent struggles to provide everything that she needs in her life. However, the writers do a wonderful job of making Riley and Maya their own people too. They are smart, funny, and adventurous, and most importantly, they completely negate the stereotypes given to preteen girls. Riley and Maya have a strong, loving friendship in which they maturely discuss their wants and needs with each other. They’re quick to support each other in any way possible. They fight, of course, but who doesn’t? But as they work through their conflict each week, viewers young and old are able to see a healthy female friendship on a children’s television show.

2) A discussion of nontraditional families.

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In an interview, Sabrina Carpenter said “To my knowledge, there has never been a character on a Disney Channel show with an absentee mom and a dad who has another family, because that’s not a typical, perfect life. But that’s what life is. It’s not perfect.” The 15-year-old actress is so right. Like her Boy Meets World counterpart Shawn, Maya doesn’t come from “a nuclear family.” Her parents are divorced, and her mother is often nowhere to be found because she’s working extra shifts at a restaurant to provide basic life necessities for her daughter. Unlike her best friend’s life, Maya’s family life is often difficult. She sees the Matthews family as her own, like Shawn did on BMW, which also brings up the important realization for kids that family does not always mean you are related to a person by blood. Maya’s situation is not an unusual one for children to experience. Shows made for kids rarely feature families that are not the “normal” family lifestyle of a mother, a father, and two or three kids. It is refreshing for young children who don’t have that family life to see one a little closer to their own on television.

3) Cory’s continuous growth.

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I’m new to this whole adulthood thing. So far, I’m not a fan. As a kid, I thought when I became an adult, I would magically know everything I needed for life. All of the adults I saw on television seemed to have it figured out. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. On Girl Meets World, they not only understand that but they show it in every episode by allowing Cory to grow as much as his daughter and her friends do. He’s grown tremendously since we first met him in middle school on BMW. But Cory still has a lot to learn about being a father, a husband, a teacher, and a human being. As a 22-year-old fan of a children’s show, I’m thankful that the boy I watched every day on TV after elementary and middle school still has not figured it all out, and I hope kids are able to watch this and see that adults do not know what they’re doing either.

4) Tackling world issues.

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While I take issue with the fact that the middle school featured on Girl Meets World lacks a significant amount of diversity amongst their students for a school in New York City, this show has tackled many vital issues for kids in just 18 episodes. In one episode, we learned that Lucas (Peyton Meyer) has recently moved to NYC from Texas. He didn’t want to leave his friends and family behind, and as someone who experienced this twice in my childhood, I connected deeply with Lucas. It is not easy to do, but Lucas and I are far from the only children to experience this life event. I never saw it on television as a child, and I wonder if it would have been easier if I had seen some small representation of it on one of my favorite television shows.

Like most shows for young people, the writers have also tackled an episode on bullying, but they addressed popularity, bullying, and self-image in unique ways that made the episode standout from the other shows. Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of that episode was Cory’s lesson on cultural appropriation to Riley and his other students. When Riley begins dressing in Harajuku style to become popular, he discusses the dangers of cultural appropriation. Since viewing the episode, I have seen some interesting discussion on the fact that Harajuku is meant to be shared with the world and is therefore not cultural appropriation. And while I do not know a lot about Harajuku and cannot speak to that, I found the overall explanation of cultural appropriation incredibly important for a children’s show. In a time when singers like Katy Perry, Iggy Azalea, and Selena Gomez are appropriating other cultures for their music videos and tours, the issue is rarely discussed in the mainstream media. Instead, it is either ignored, or even worse, celebrated as “art.” By explaining to children what the issue is, even if they did not explicitly use the term “cultural appropriation,” they are helping kids learn early that it is exploitative and racist.

5) Allowing former fans of BMW to enjoy it with their kids. 

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I know I am not ready to be a mother, but a small part of me wishes I had a child who was old enough to watch this show with me. One of the things the Girl Meets World writers have done so intelligently is bridge the gap between the old show and the new. In doing so, they provide a perfect opportunity for the two generations of fans to watch this show together. People who enjoyed BMW as teenagers now have kids around the ages of Riley, Maya, and Riley’s younger brother Auggie (August Maturo), and the show is more than enjoyable for these adults to watch. So far, GMW has featured the return of Shawn Hunter, Cory’s parents Amy and Alan Matthews (Betsy Randle and William Russ, respectively), and Topanga’s school rival Stuart Minkus (Lee Norris). We even saw a brief appearance from Mr. Feeny, and season two promises even more Shawn and Mr. Feeny as well as the return of Cory’s older brother Eric Matthews (Will Friedle). They use flashbacks creatively to show the younger fans what they missed on BMW in a way that is not confusing or overwhelming. By keeping the new generation of viewers informed about the past, they make the show nostalgic and exciting for loyal fans of BMW and build a deep connection between the two shows. And even though I am a huge fan of GMW without having kids to watch it with, I know I would love to spend my Friday nights watching this Disney Channel show with my children if I was a parent.

I don’t know how long the show can last without moving to ABC Family to keep it relevant to the aging audience, but for now, Girl Meets World is exactly what this world needs.

Personal

2014, You Weren’t So Bad

2014 was kind of surreal. I still can’t believe it all really happened when I think about it. It was crazy from beginning to end so I am dedicating my first post in a while to this life-changing year.

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I attended the Sundance Film Festival. I kicked off 2014 by attending the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, to conduct research for my Honors thesis. I wrote an extensive recap of this trip back in January, but I still can’t say enough about this experience. As this year’s festival begins, I’m so sad I can’t be there again. One day, I will return, but until then, I’ll enjoy the photos above and rewatch all of the wonderful films I saw while I was there. Also, Amy Poehler touched my hand. I need everyone to remember that.

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I traveled to Washington DC with my best friend. If you know me at all, I’ve probably yelled at you for not watching The West Wing. Or if you have watched The West Wing, I’ve probably scared you with the intensity of my love for the show and for Donnatella Moss. Luckily, I have a best friend who loves the show just as much as I do. So, when Allison and I were trying to decide where we wanted to go for spring break this year, Washington DC was the obvious choice. Our pilgrimage to the land of the Bartlet Administration (who is this Obama person?) was everything I wanted it to be and more. I mean, I touched the wall of the White House and a Secret Service member yelled at me. Truly a dream come true. I am so in love with this city.

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I completed my thesis for graduation from the Honors College. On April 24, just two days before my 22nd birthday, I defended my thesis called “Will You Buy My Movie? A Study of the Films Purchased for Distribution at the Sundance Film Festival.” I was completely terrified, as I felt the word defense implied that I was on trial. However, my advisors were excellent and helped ease the stress of writing and defending a 43 page research paper. I can’t count on my fingers and toes how many times I almost gave up throughout the experience, but I’m happy to say I completed it and passed with honors! What a great start to my 22nd birthday weekend.

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I graduated from college and watched my brother graduate from high school. WHAT?! I have a college degree hanging on a wall in my apartment. The cliche is true—my four years of college went by so quickly. Part of me misses it. The other part—the larger part—is grateful for the experiences I had at Western Kentucky University and happy to be moving on to new things. I also proudly watched as my baby brother graduated from high school and started his college career at WKU. (Special thanks to my parents for all of the hard work they put into throwing our awesome graduation party!)

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I went on a cruise with my family after graduation. Aren’t we cute? This was a much-needed family vacation, and we had an absolute blast. Or we did once my brother got over his illness on our first day. We played with dolphins in the Bahamas, toured St. Maarten in a Jeep, and swam and shopped in St. Thomas. We also became close friends with our tablemates, the other Smiths, who came to visit us in Kentucky when I was home in September.

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I moved to New York City. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been saying that I was going to move to NYC after I graduated from college. People tried to tell me I wouldn’t be able to get a job in the Big Apple right after college and that I would have to work for many years before I made it here. I kind of started to believe them. However, I graduated on May 17 and started my job on June 23. Did I mention this job is in an office building in the middle of Times Square? I made it, and I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself. The same week I got my first job, I met Dule Hill from The West Wing. I also now get to see my uncles Patrick and LeLan pretty frequently. Not too shabby.

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I went back to Kentucky for a week in September. My company offers fantastic benefits. Seriously, I’m so lucky. One of those benefits includes quite a bit of time off so I was able to take a week in September to relax and visit with family and friends after the whirlwind summer that I had.

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I had a number of visitors in the Big Apple. My parents, my aunt, my brother, my cousin, my brother’s friend, and some of my friends have all come to visit me so far. I knew I would have a lot of visitors when I moved here, but I didn’t expect so many this quickly! I’m incredibly grateful that they visit me frequently and that I’m able to live in an apartment large enough to host them.

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I visited Central PerkOn October 8, I fulfilled my lifelong dream of meeting my friends at Central Perk after work. Sadly, it was only a temporary pop-up coffee shop to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the premiere of Friends, but I almost cried while I was there. They turned it into a tiny museum full of artifacts from the show. Kait, Nicole, and I even got to sit on the famous couch, and you could tell how sunken in it was from all of the days that Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler, and Ross spent on it. I want it to be in NYC permanently.

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I met two of the greatest feminist icons of my generation. For $5, I was able to attend an evening with Tavi Gevinson and Janet Mock to celebrate the release of Tavi’s Rookie Yearbook 3. If you don’t know anything about these two women, I highly recommend you check them out! Tavi is only 18 years old and has accomplished more and helped more young women than I could ever dream of doing. Janet is a leader in the transgender community and wrote a New York Times bestseller that I can’t wait to read called Redefining Realness. After their conversation with each other, we were able to get our books signed and meet them. They were even more incredible in person that I thought possible.

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I spent an evening with Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers. In celebration of her book release, Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers sat down together for a few hours at 92Y in New York and talked about life. The best part? I was there! My friend Kait and I bought VIP tickets for only $68, which meant we were in the fifth row and got a signed copy of Yes Please with our ticket. Amy and Seth really are the cutest friends I’ve ever seen, and Amy’s laugh can change the world. It’s the fifth time I’ve been in her presence, and I’ve walked away a happier and better person after each experience.

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I spent Thanksgiving with my family and two dear friends. Jana and Trip also moved to New York City after graduating from WKU, and I’m so happy they did. While I knew them in college, we’ve gotten a lot closer since we all moved here. Having them join my family for Thanksgiving really made the holiday weekend perfect.

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I went to Kentucky for Christmas. Getting to Kentucky was a tad stressful, but I made it home around noon on Christmas Eve and spent the holiday weekend surrounded by my wonderful family members. Christmas was a little different than usual due to various circumstances, but it was a merry one. How could it not be with all of those cute babies to help you celebrate?

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I spent New Years Eve with a new group of friends. Back in July, I made a new friend who quickly became one of my favorite people in the world. I spent New Years Eve with her and some of her friends in Virginia, and it was the perfect end to a spectacular year.

Personal

Brief Update

At some point last year, I made this blog private and stopped posting on it. I didn’t want to delete it permanently, in case I ever felt inspired to write again, but I wasn’t writing enough to keep it open. However, some of my friends have inspired me to start blogging again. So, I’ve cleaned up my blog so that only the posts I really wanted to keep are here. I’m hoping to blog twice a month so if there is anything you would like to see me blog about, please share in the comments below.

Feel free to check out the links in my sidebar to learn more about me! Thank you for reading!

Television, Travel

Spring Break 2014: Walking and Talking in Washington DC

This is a bit delayed, but my best friend and I finally had a chance to go through our pictures from our spring break trip to Washington DC and I wanted to post a little bit about it.

The first step to overcoming a problem is admitting you have one. So here goes: I am obsessed with The West Wing. My best friend, Allison, and I talk about the show constantly, and I recently started rewatching it (after just finishing it) as I work on my thesis. Allison and I reached the height of obsession, though, when we decided to spend our spring break on a West Wing-inspired trip to DC. People seemed confused when we said we were going there instead of Florida, but trust me, this was an excellent decision. We made a list of places we wanted to go because they were mentioned on TWW (and the DC episode in season five of Parks and Recreation), and we had the best time. In fact, we both immediately started looking at graduate schools and potential jobs there because we loved it so much.

If you’re planning a trip to DC in the future, which I recommend whether you love The West Wing and American politics or not, here are some things you cannot miss! (And yes, almost everything on this list does have significance to The West Wing. I would apologize, but I’m not sorry.)

  • The White House: Of course, this was the first thing on our “To Visit” list. We visited the grounds almost every day, saw Marine One taking off from the White House, and even got to take a tour of The East Wing one morning. We may or may not have cried. (We totally did. The experience was just too much.) We even took a selfie with a Secret Service agent outside of the White House, but he threatened my life if it ever showed up on social media. I think he was joking, but I don’t want to take any chances.
  • The Newseum: I’ve been to the British Museum, the Louvre, the Met, the Museum of Modern Art, and a slew of other museums in Europe and New York City. However, the Newseum is by far my favorite. In fact, we spent two days in there because one just wasn’t enough. We were able to touch the Berlin Wall; explore an exhibit called “Creating Camelot” about John and Jacqueline Kennedy; see artifacts from the Anchorman movies at a special exhibit that actually made the films educational; see Tim Russert’s office and the Unibomber’s cabin; pull out newspapers with headlines about Lincoln’s assassination and women getting the right to vote; learn how journalists risked their lives on 9/11; understand how technology has changed the news over the years; pretend to be White House correspondents; and so many other things. It’s one of the few museums in DC that charges admission, but it’s well worth it. (The Newseum does have significance within The West Wing world as well—prior to its move to the heart of DC, it resided in Rosslyn and was the location of the heartbreaking shooting in the season one finale.)
  • The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: I’ve been to the concentration camp Dachau, and nothing will ever be as haunting to me as that. However, this museum is still horrifying and intense. We quietly walked through the museum for about three hours, and it’s not something I really want to blog about. It’s just something that everyone should experience for themselves at some point.
  • Arlington National Cemetery: Once again, this is significant on The West Wing since it is the burial site of three major characters. However, we really wanted to go for the experience. Arlington is beautiful, as you would imagine, and it’s also massive. We barely covered even a fourth of it. We were able to see the burial sites of the Kennedys and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall as well as the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Once we left Arlington Cemetery, we made our way to the Arlington Bridge, a beautiful bridge that connects Arlington, Virginia, to Washington DC with a great view of the Lincoln Memorial. This was a particularly important site to us, as it is featured at the end of one of our favorite episodes of The West Wing: “20 Hours in America (Part 2).”
  • The National Cathedral: This was a must see for us (spoiler alert!) since it is where those on The West Wing said goodbye to the beloved Mrs. Landingham in season two’s finale “Two Cathedrals.” The cathedral is stunning, and I was immediately taken back to my time in Europe, when I went to dozens of old cathedrals. While the National Cathedral, like everything else in the US, is not as old as the churches of England, France, and Italy, the National Cathedral lives up to the beauty. It was wonderful and peaceful to explore. (We even watched “Two Cathedrals” prior to our trip here to see where each character sat. See our super cool pictures below.)
  • The Capitol: We took a tour of the Capitol Building on International Women’s Day, and while the tour is a bit short, it’s a lot of fun. They force you to watch some serious Congress propaganda before the tour, and then take you through the Crypt, the original Supreme Court chambers, the original House of Representatives chamber, and of course, the Rotunda. Allison and I even got to talk a bit about Kentucky to the group since Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln are frequently referenced throughout the historical building.
  • The Supreme Court: We had no idea you could go inside the Supreme Court, but you can and it’s super cool! It wasn’t in session while we were there, but if it had been, we even could have gone to watch some hearings with the Supreme Court justices. That’s been added to my bucket list!
  • The Library of Congress: I didn’t give the Library of Congress enough credit before going because it really was a lot of fun. I didn’t realize it was like a museum until we got there, but they had a number of wonderful exhibits throughout the building. We saw the George & Ira Gershwin exhibit as well as a fascinating exhibit about politics and popular culture, an area of research I have always been interested in. I would love to go back and spend more time exploring in there.
  • The American History Museum: This museum features a lot from our nation’s short history in both politics and popular culture. Kermit lives here as do some inaugural dresses of the First Ladies (Grace Coolidge is our favorite). There was a lot of ground to cover, but we made our way through every room and loved it. We even stood in the spot where Ben and Leslie are reunited in “Ms. Knope Goes to Washington” on Parks and Recreation. We were also a little bit famous in this museum—a guy took our picture because he liked our sweatshirts (I had on Bartlet for America while Allison wore her Lyman/Seaborn 2016) and then a group of people ran up to us as we were leaving to compliment them and discuss The West Wing. We were instant friends.
  • The Memorials: There are beautiful memorials throughout DC, and the Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, and the Korean War Memorial are all pretty close together, which makes for an easy and beautiful walk. (Just be aware that they’re far away from any metro station. The walk back was a bit torturous.) It’s definitely worth a visit, and you can even stand where Martin Luther King Jr. did when he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. As a lover of all things history, that’s a pretty cool and powerful thing to do.
  • A meeting on the Hill: During our second day in the Newseum, we got a phone call from someone at Congressman Massie’s office, who had arranged our White House tour for us, telling us to stop by his office so that we could pick up the pass we needed for the White House tour. Being West Wing fans, we immediately started calling it our “Meeting on the Hill.” We headed to the Cannon House Office Building, went to Congressman Massie’s office, and then explored the building for a bit. We made the most of the experience, that’s for sure.
  • The Mall at night: This is when DC is truly beautiful. It’s just so peaceful. If you stand in between the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument at the reflecting pool, you’ll get some stunning pictures.

We went to a ton of other places (including a Target with a cart escalator!), and I know there are still quite a few things on our list that we missed (18th & Potomac, for instance). However, we both plan on returning to DC as soon as possible! Below are just a few of the pictures we took!

And one final thing: A HUGE thanks to Allison’s cousin and her roommates for being so hospitable so we didn’t have to pay for a hotel!

Marine One...WHAT
Marine One lands at the White House.
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Happy International Women’s Day to my favorite fictional ladies, Donna Moss and CJ Cregg!
George and Ira Gershwin's piano
George and Ira Gershwin’s piano
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Taken right before a mother yelled at her son for sitting on the Republicans bench. My kind of parenting!
Allison enjoys the Washington Monument on a beautiful DC night (before getting "attacked" by some ducks.)
Allison enjoys the Washington Monument on a beautiful DC night (before getting “attacked” by some ducks).
THIS IS THE ONE
We weren’t originally going to wear these on the same day, but it was International Women’s Day so WE HAD TO. Also, this is one of my favorite pictures of all-time.
congress shall make no law
The best amendment on the entrance of the best museum.
wait is that..
While looking at artifacts in the First Amendment exhibit, we heard a familiar voice reading the First Amendment over the speakers. We turned the corner and saw our beloved President Bartlet. We then proceeded to freak out.
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Channeling my inner Veronica Corningstone at the Anchorman exhibit.
you serve at the pleasure of the president
White House Correspondent Allison Cole.
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The Unibomber’s cabin
Spring Break 2014- Washington DC
Some of the many important headlines at the Newseum. (From L to R): the end of World War I, Hitler dead (from The Louisville Times!), women get the right to vote, Hawaii becomes the 50th state, Lincoln assassinated, and Kennedy assassinated.
BEN AND LESLIE STOOD HERE
I’m terrible at taking selfies. That is something I learned on this trip. However, Ben and Leslie stood here so this was necessary.
what kind of day has it been
What kind of day has it been? (Season 1, episode 22 of The West Wing)
what's he doing in fwoggy bowtew
Josh: “Sam went to Foggy Bottom.” CJ: “What’s he doing in fwoggy bowtew?” (Season 1, episode 15 of The West Wing)
THANKS FOR SAVING JOSHUA
Thank you for saving Josh Lyman!
hanging with linc
Hanging out with our pal, Lincoln. Leslie: “‘In this temple, as in the hearts of the people for whom he saved the union, the memory of Abraham Lincoln is enshrined forever.’ Andy, what are you doing?” Andy: “Have you ever seen any of the National Treasure movies? Everything in this city is a clue.” (season 5, episode 1 of Parks and Recreation)
one time tobias was here
The Korean War Memorial (featured in season 1, episode 10 of The West Wing)
ww2 memorial 2
World War II Memorial
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The Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.
John and Jackie
The burial site for President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis at Arlington National Cemetery
kaitlynn and allison at arlington bridge
The Arlington Bridge (featured in The West Wing’s season 1 finale “What Kind of Day Has It Been?” and season 4 premiere “20 Hours in America (Part 2)”)
so happy to be at our meeting on the hill
Allison was super excited for our meeting on the Hill!
the best
Outside of the White House after our wonderful tour!

 

allison is jack kennedy
Of course we had to take this picture!
Just call us both CJ Cregg!
Just call us both CJ Cregg!
Spring Break 2014- Washington DC1
Allison poses for her presidential portrait in President Bartlet’s chair at the National Cathedral while I happily sit where my girl Donna Moss did. (We both have pictures in each person’s chair but I decided to post these based on the super scientific results of the “Which West Wing character are you?” Buzzfeed quiz.)
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The Supreme Court of the United States
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An exhibit honoring Sandra Day O’Connor at the Supreme Court! Yay ladies!
Barlet for America
Our last visit to the White House wouldn’t be complete without one final Bartlet for America picture!