Playa del Carmen - 10.10.18/10.14.18

When my high school best friend & GBF, Jim (or James to some of you) suggested that we take a trip in the Fall, I left the destination up to him; my only stipulation? Could I get there on my JetBlue points? Yes?

And so it was off to Mexico for some sun & relaxation! We ended up staying about an hour South of Cancun in Playa del Carmen at a really nice resort (not all-inclusive), but gorgeous, nonetheless!


Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

It was a brisk Fall day, when I got up early to catch my flight to Cancun, where I would meet up with Jim before heading through customs. Bad news: his flight was delayed and we didn’t have much of a contingency plan, so I sat near the Cancun Airport baggage claim for around 2 hours until he arrived. Luggage in hand, we were off to meet our own transportation van, which would take us to Playa del Carmen and to our resort. The photos and website for the Grand Hyatt were gorgeous, but seeing it in person and the clear, blue water of the ocean was a whole another experience!

Once we dropped out things in the hotel room, it was time to go off and find some food. After walking around, we settled on a taquiera, where I ordered a mix of fajitas: steak, shrimp and chicken. What did Jim do, but immediately get on Grindr to chat with the local boys! After stuffing our bellies, we walked up and down the main street; 5th Avenue, where I spotted a carved wooden mask with none other than the Nebraska Huskers logo on it! (The Mexican community must really know their market of tourists!)

As the sun was setting, we went decided to head down to the beach for a bit. We found an empty cabana by the beach and setup shop for the evening. Watching the sun set with all the cotton candy colors was amazing and I could easily get used to this life (but leaving my love of Broadway behind would be too hard)!

After the beach, we went back into the shopping area to look for souvenirs. Jim wanted to find some sort of tequila or other alcohol, while I went for the novelty gifts. As we were walking around, I exclaimed that I wish I would have found one of the guys selling churros & Jim goes “he’s right there,” pointing directly behind me. Success! While they weren’t super fresh, they definitely comforted my sweet craving for the evening.

Thursday, October 11th, 2018

While Jim got up early to go to the gym, I slept in and enjoyed the amenities of our room. Once he got back, we went to check out the breakfast options. We got a nice view of the ocean from our table outside and I went to scope out the breakfast buffet, before settling on anything from the menu. I was a bit underwhelmed by the buffet: breads, yes, but where were the eggs, cereal, potatoes, etc!? I opted for the smoked salmon benedict and enjoyed the complimentary bread basket.

After our meal, then it was back to enjoy the ocean view and one of the many infinity pools. While we were sitting, I commented on how I needed to get one of the giant coconuts to drink before we left and again, a waiter appeared next to us, “Coconut?” Yes, please! (Between this and the churro guy last night, this was a good sign for the rest of this vacation!) I spent some time in the pool, then worked on reading my way through Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before; the perfect beach read!

Post-pool time, it was back into the city; for more exploring and trying to make Jim’s indecisive nature pick a place for dinner. After we walked for awhile, we ended up at a Thai fusion restaurant called Yum Yum (yes, just like the Thai restaurants in Hell’s Kitchen). Their complimentary appetizer was thinly sliced plantains with a spicy mango chutney; delicious, but a tad too spicy for my weak spice-tolerance!

We did a little more exploring and a quick trip to a Mexican grocery store for snacks before calling it a night. The next day, we had to get up around 4am to catch our bus to Chichen Itza; so no late night partying!

Friday, October 12th, 2018

Oof, that 4am wake-up call came too fast! At first I was angry with having to get up so early to catch our bus out to the Mayan ruins, but after I saw how crowded it got when we were leaving just after 11am, I was thankful for the early rising time!

Since my World History class in high school was crap, I realized how little I knew about the Mayan civilization and the crazy amount of math that went into how they built their pyramids and temples! Our guide demonstrated the significance of the snake and the number 13 in many of the Mayan’s structures (maybe Taylor Swift is a fan?); how when the sun set along the largest pyramid, that it’s shadow would cast and form the body of a snake! Then we went to one of the arenas where sacrifices were determined. We learned that from one end for the arena you could hear perfectly what was being said on the opposite end (where the ruler would sit) and the other side, you could hear nothing. This way the ruler could hear anyone trying to plan a strategy for the game. Yes, it was a honor to be sacrificed to the Gods, but even as I overlooked the giant cenote (where the bodies were tossed), it did not seem like an honor I’d want to have!

As we left Chichen Itza, we stopped at a marketplace (versus all the unauthentic merchants selling wares at the site) and were given tequila to try and time to shop. I found a mug for my Dad, some smaller gifts for various family & friends and an embroidered dress for myself. It was barely lunchtime and we were headed back to Playa del Carmen, while Jim took a nap on the bus, I caught up on some podcasts.

Heading back to the city, I found a little gelato pop stand and got a popsicle dipped in milk chocolate. However, my best snack find was “Nitro Breath” some fruity flavored cereal dipped into dry ice, which lead to it’s ability to “smoke!” I chose a side of chocolate sauce and blew smoke out of my mouth while walking up and down 5th Avenue.

Saturday, October 13th, 2018

Ok, so I admit that I underestimated the breakfast buffet at the resort! There were FOUR separate sections and I only looked at one! Oops. Well, you bet that was what I chose to eat for our last full day in Playa del Carmen. I started with a few “low value carbs” as Eva Chen would say, getting a little cheesy mini bagel, a slice of French toast, a slice of banana bread, some sliced ham and chilaquiles (tortilla chips with salsa, eggs and cheese). For round two, I ordered a special omelette from the omelette and made-to-order eggs station. And since they also had lactose free milk, I got some cocoa krispies for a sweet treat and a last round of chilaquiles and eggs.

Post-breakfast, we went back to the infinity pools and found a spot in the “Adults Only” pool. I spent some time art directing Jim for a good photo of me in the infinity pool and enjoyed another coconut drink! Then to wrap up the weekend, Jim and I went to the Cenote Spa for a relaxing massage. While I got to the local Asian massage parlor in Ridgewood about every month or so, this was a whole different experience! First of all, I didn’t know what to do with the locker, robe and slippers…then when I got into my massage suite, there was a full bathroom with a waterfall shower! When my masseuse came. she even asked what kind of music I wanted to listen to. Wow, this was luxury at it’s best!

When I was done, I took a quick shower and got dressed. I wasn’t sure what to do next and the staff seemed surprised that I was done so quickly! Apparently, I should have kept my robe on, enjoyed the steam room and relaxed in the cenote. Instead, I was back in my swimsuit, and sitting by the cenote with a hot green tea, waiting for Jim to wrap up his massage. Big oops.

After our spa time, we went back into the city to pick up the last of our souvenirs. I was on a mission to find a wood carved monkey with the Huskers logo for my brother that I had seen a few days ago, but couldn’t quite remember where I found it! I found a cute woven basket for Popo, some bracelets for my friend’s kids and a little embroidered dress for Ellie! I had just given up on finding the monkey again and settled for another wooden monkey, when I was leaving a shop and saw the Huskers logo peeking out of the back of the display! Thankfully, the salesman let me exchange the plain wooden monkeys for the Huskers one!

With our shopping wrapped up, it was time again to eat! I was amused by the restaurant with a giant sign of an extra long hot dog on a hamburger bun, but ended up treating myself to some queso fundido. On the way back to the resort to pack for the trip back home, we stopped by a convenience store and found Ricky Martin on a variety of water bottles!

At the last minute, Jim left to go meet up with a boy for drinks, so I stayed in the room to catch up on social media and enjoy all the amenities for the last time.

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

Ok, Mexico, you were great! Back to the USA it is…at least I also took Monday off work to catch up, relax and hang out with Tempestt and the kiddos!

Chicago - 07.12.18/07.16.18

It's hard to believe that I lived in Chicago TEN YEARS ago!? I'm not that old, right? So, what better time of the year for me to go back than for the Taste of Chicago and to see some musicals (food & theatre = basically my brand). 

Thursday, July 12th, 2018

Sometimes you just need a break from NYC, well what better way to escape than to head to another city? Yes, I planned this trip around going to the Taste of Chicago (a food festival in Grant Park featuring all sorts of foods and native Chicago treats) and seeing some Broadway in Chicago shows.

I found a hotel near Millennium Park, so I could easily commute around the city via the El (elevated train) in Chicago. I started to make my way uptown, when I saw that a college friend of mine was in town for a conference. We met up for tacos at Velvet Tacos and to catch up on the last 10+ years of our lives.

When she headed back to her conference, I had to make a trek uptown to Strange Cargo. (Years ago, I found that they had a vintage New Kids on the Block screen print and customized a t-shirt with “CHEN” printed on the back in velvet letters and have been getting compliments on it ever since.) The store recently moved locations, but even the longer commute didn’t deter me from the pop culture t-shirt hunt! While I didn’t find any boy band themed screen prints this time around, I did find a great SPICE GIRLS one and a block lettered logo of NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK. While I grabbed a few decks of *NSYNC & Backstreet Boys photo packs and collectors cards, I spied a” Miss Vanjie” print that I missed the first time around. Just as I was thinking that I didn’t have time to wait for another t-shirt to be made, I turned around and found a whole rack of “Miss Vanjie” printed on t-shirts and tank tops! Jackpot! Boy bands, girl power and drag queens all in one spot!

Then it was back downtown to my hotel to get ready for dinner and a show! Once I had decided that a trip to Chicago was in order, I immediately went to see what Broadway shows were playing during my trip and wouldn’t you know, The Cher Show, was having their out of town tryout and I found a ticket to HAMILTON for under $100!? Done and done. I was especially excited, since JIn Ha (M. Butterfly) was wrapping up his run as Aaron Burr and it was a major first for an Asian-American actor. The CIBC Theatre where HAMILTON was playing was much larger than the Richard Rodgers in NYC, but I didn’t factor in the Dress Circle overhang, so I was only able to see the actors from the waist-down, when they were on the upper deck of the stage!

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Day two in Chicago and I was faced with the dilemma of where to eat for brunch! There were so many places that I loved when I lived in Chi-Town, but many of them had relocated or closed. Luckily, The Bongo Room had opened a new location within 2 blocks from my hotel! Now the major challenge starts; sweet or savory for breakfast? I ended up choosing both; sweet with cornmeal blueberry pancakes & maple syrup and a side of home fries with melted American cheese.

Fully stuffed, it was time to walk around the city a bit. I wandered through Grant Park on my way to the Art Institute. I could have easily spent more than 1-2 hours in the museum, as I wandered through the contemporary galleries. Inspired by all the sculptures and paintings, I knew I had one more stop before I left the museum; to find the Seurat that Sunday in the Park with George was written about. Yes, I finished the hat after a few false starts and headed back to my hotel for a quick refresh.

Then I was off to meet my friend, Jason & his boyfriend, Riley, for dinner. We caught up on life and talked theatre, since Riley knew quite a bit about Broadway, too; then it was off to see The Cher Show at the Oriental Theatre! I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I love Stephanie J. Block, so I knew she’d be fabulous! By intermission, we all determined that the story was a little all over the place, but you can’t beat Cher’s songbook and the costumes, oh the costumes! Bob Mackie really outdid himself re-creating some of Cher’s iconic looks and adding costumes for all of the ensemble members. I’ll be interested to see what changes from this run of the show when it comes to Broadway this winter…

Originally, when I was planning my trip, I thought about taking the weekend to head to Madison, Wisconsin to visit my brother, Philip and sister-in-law, Melanie…however, they were going to be in Chicago that weekend! They're avid ultimate frisbee players, so they were in town for a tournament all day Saturday and Sunday, before driving back home. After The Cher Show, we were able to meet up for some drinks & a snack near their hotel in Lakeview, before they went to rest and I went back to my hotel.

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

The day of eating had finally arrived! I woke up early to meet Jason in Grant Park, so we could feast at the Taste of Chicago before it got too crowded and the predicted rain was supposed to start. We both purchased two strips of tickets, which we thought would allow us to sample quite a few things and still have some leftover.

Our first stop, the pop-up section for the chicken & waffle balls. They were like little breaded chicken meatballs with maple syrup, sitting on top of waffle bits. Disappointingly, the “taste” size was only 2 meatballs…but we figured our stomachs would need room to eat more things. While Jason went on to try some alligator, I opted for some tortilla-crusted tilapia tacos and some bulgogi chicken on wonton chips; basically Korean nachos and truffle fries. When we’d had our fill of savory treats, I had to find the infamous Chicago “Rainbow Ice Cream Cone!” We finally found the stand, but quickly realized we’d need to load up on more tickets to make this treat happen. It was SO worth it: chocolate ice cream topped with strawberry ice cream topped with Parker House (New York vanilla with cherry & walnuts) ice cream topped with pistachio ice cream topped with orange sherbert! Phew. I got full just typing all of that out!

Once we couldn’t eat any more, we went our separate ways; full disclosure, I went back to my hotel to take a nap! When I woke up, I found out that TodayTix in Chicago had rush tickets for The View Upstairs, so I purchased a ticket and made my way farther South to Chicago’s Chinatown for some more eating before the show. I was craving some dumplings and found a great spot with delicious pan-fried ones. Then it was back to Joy Yee with their hundreds of different kinds of bubble tea! I opted for a coconut slush with rainbow jelly to help me cool off in the Chicago summer heat. I browsed through a few shops before heading back uptown to Lakeview for the show.

I was lucky enough to see Max Vernon’s show, The View Upstairs, about a gay bar in New Orleans that burned down in NYC and I was interested to see how the show would play at a smaller venue in Chicago. An intriguing work of historical fiction, the musical centers around a young gay man, who’s purchased the space where the bar, The UpStairs Lounge, once was. Through a strange turn of events, he goes back in time to the 1970’s when the bar was alive and thriving; one of the only safe spaces for the gay community to be welcomed during that time frame. Since I had seen the show before, I knew that the audience plays a role in the show, as observers and for the main character to speak to; so I chose my seat wisely. While I enjoyed the NYC production more, I was glad I got to experience this piece with a Midwestern audience and that they were being exposed to this story.

Sunday, July 15th, 2018

Ann Sather, Millenial Park, Sarah & kids, Navy Pier

On Sunday, my cousin, Sarah and her husband, Scott drove up to Chicago from Springfield, Illinois with their kids, Owen & Reese. They had visited me in NYC earlier in the summer, so it was great to reunite with them in a place a little closer to their home. Since they had a few hours to drive up, I knew where my breakfast stop was going to be: Ann Sather in Lakeview. If you’re looking for a great breakfast spot to get some of the best biscuits & cinnamon rolls that you’ve ever had, then Ann Sather’s is the place! (Plus, they give you SO many options for a great price!) I usually go with some sort of benedict or biscuits & gravy, but opted for “The Swedish Sampler” this time - 1 Swedish sausage link, 1 Swedish pancake, 1 Swedish meatball, poached eggs, 1 cinnamon roll, 1 biscuit and hashbrowns with American cheese. While I wasn’t a fan of the Swedish sausage, the Swedish pancake was almost like a crepe, but sweeter and the meatball was tasty; Ikea’s got nothing on them!

After stuffing myself full of carbs, I made my way downtown to meet up with my cousins. I was waiting for them in the shade of the Chicago Theatre, when Reese spotted me & I saw her come running down the block! After the necessary hello’s, we headed towards Navy Pier to explore and ride their new ferris wheel. The view from the little gondola carts was amazing and you could see the whole Chicago skyline! After the kids ran around the Navy Pier and we did a little shopping (a stop at Dylan’s Candy Bar was a must -- where I realized that I don’t feel so bad about my Care Bear collection compared to Dylan Lauren’s bunny collection), we headed to Michigan Avenue for food. After eating at the Grand Lux Cafe, we went our separate ways and promised to meet up again soon.

Monday, July 16th, 2018

For the last part of my Chicago trip, I took a moment to walk around before flying back to NYC later that morning. I must have forgotten that I was flying back Monday morning, since I had purchased tickets to Jeremy Jordan & Ashley Spencer’s show at Sony Hall. I almost decided to sell my ticket and not go, I really wanted to rest before going back to work, but went anyways.

I was glad that I did! When I walked in, I almost ran into Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) and shortly thereafter, she was joined at her table with a bunch of other Broadway celebs!

Boston - 06.29.18/07.01.18

Can you believe that this was my first time going to Boston? When I heard that the World Premiere of Moulin Rouge was going to be in Boston and my BFF from high school would be there, I immediately booked ticket. Unfortunately, the production had to delay their opening, so I wasn’t able to get tickets and back to Beantown. I did have a great time though!

Friday, June 29th, 2018

I took advantage of Summer Fridays at the office and took an Amtrak up to Boston for the weekend. It was around 4 hours and gave me time to catch up on reading and TV before grabbing a cab and meeting Jim at the hotel in Back Bay. (Plus, I finally was able to get the banana pudding special: Reese’s Pieces, from Magnolia Bakery.)

While I was waiting for Jim, I tried to find a place to grab dinner. Jim wanted a lobster roll and I was just plain hungry; good thing there was a great option downtown about a 15 minute walk away. I got some great pasta, but it was a tad spicy…so the next mission was ice cream. I took us on a bit of a wild goose chase while trying to find the Giradelli Chocolate store, but stumbled upon a soft serve ice cream stand. And…I managed to eat my cone before it melted and ended up all over my shirt.

Saturday, June 30th, 2018

For Saturday morning, Jim’s request was dim sum. I put my Yelp skills back to work and found Hei-Lah Moon in Chinatown that had the traditional dim sum carts. Even though it was super hot & humid out, the hot steamy dumplings, taro cakes, pork buns and a variety of other treats hit the spot. Our bellies full, we strolled through Chinatown where I found a “DO NET ENTER” sign and couldn’t resist taking a photo.

After dim sum, we walked through the park and ran into an anti-Trump protest. (I actually think this is the protest that Jim wanted to participate in and I said that’s not how I wanted to spend my vacation…) On our way out of the park, I found a statue of George Washington and couldn’t help but make some “Here Comes the General” references from HAMILTON. Then we took a short nap/cool off break at the hotel before taking the train to go across the river and towards Harvard Square. The train was easy to navigate and it was cool traveling above the water towards the famous Ivy League Campus.

We walked around Harvard and did some shopping, including this awesome pencil wall at Warby Parker. For dinner, we opted for Italian before walking towards Fenway Park (yes, I was into seeing it more because of New Kids on the Block than the Red Sox…) and immediately spotted a Wahlburger’s restaurant! I had to stop, buy a t-shirt, a hamburger pin and take a photo with the giant photo on the wall with the Wahlbergs!

Sunday, July 1st, 2018

I was still disappointed that I wasn’t going to see Moulin Rouge, but that feeling lifted a bit when I saw Sonya Tayeh (the choreographer from the show & So You Think You Can Dance) at the bakery I chose for brunch! I didn’t say anything to her…but I noticed her right away, sitting with her girlfriend at the front of the cafe. Jim was less amused.

After breakfast, we did a little shopping and wandering around Back Bay before we both had to head our separate ways; Jim back to Nebraska and myself back to the Amtrak to the city.

Los Angeles - 03.22.18/03.27.18

I'm not sure if I'll ever be a "West Coast" girl, but I like visiting! One of my friends from high school, Nan, was getting married in Rancho Palo Verdes, CA, I knew I had to be there and get some sunshine during the dreary NYC winter.

I added in a few days, so I could see other friends and enjoy some great food. So, here's a few things that I did in Los Angeles and Southern California.


Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

I flew into LAX on Thursday afternoon and arrived in LA in the evening. I accidentally booked my rental car at an off-site hotel, so I had to wait for a hotel shuttle, get to the hotel and pick up the car. Due to delays, I was late to pick up my car and they had released my reservation! (This trip was off to a great start!) Luckily, this rental was still much cheaper than renting from AVIS, so I forked over $20 more a day and was on the road to meet my friend, Courtney (we were Madewell buddies a few years ago and have stayed in touch). I was very fortunate to get to stay with her and her husband in LA and save lots of money on a hotel room. By the time I got to her apartment in Los Feliz, it was fairly late, so we drove nearby for tacos and went to sleep.

Friday, March 23rd, 2018

On Friday, Courtney had to work, so I drove to Buena Park to pick up my friend, Chung (we also used to work together at Madewell) and hit up some of the more touristy sites in Downtown LA. Chung picked out breakfast for us at Porto's (Some amazing egg sandwiches) and we were on our way to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

I'm lucky that Chung is such a good sport, since I had to find RuPaul's newly minted star on the Walk of Fame! We walked up and down Hollywood Boulevard, looking for famous names and then to the "Boy Band Section:" New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, New Edition and Backstreet Boys. (I would miss the *NSYNC star by about a month, since they received their star on April 30th for "It's Gonna Be May" Day!") After finding all the pop stars I could handle, we walked over to Amoeba Music; where Chung had never been and is closing down!?

I had one mission: to find random Broadway cast albums and rare pop music for my ridiculous CD collection and I succeeded. 

  • Flower Drum Song with Lea Salonga & Jose Ilana
  • The Boy from Oz with Hugh Jackman
  • OBC of Falsettoland
  • Gypsy with Bette Midler
  • Broadway Divas
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with Megan Hilty
  • Annie Get Your Gun with Bernadette Peters
  • OBC of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson
  • The Light in the Piazzai with Kelli O'Hara
  • No More Games: The Remix Album by New Kids on the Block
  • Tonight by New Kids on the Block

After a thorough hunt through all the things at Amoeba, I was finally read for some lunch at In-N-Out! We walked to the nearest location (which was right when the nearby high school was letting out) and were able to place an order and find a seat. However, we sat with two teenage boys, who were visiting from Canada and I had to keep telling Chung that I was old enough to be their teenage mother! Oof. Anyways, we got our food and then it was time for me to get her back to Buena Park, no big deal, right? Wrong.

We spent almost 3 hours, driving the 30-ish miles back to her apartment. LA traffic, you're no joke and another reason I'll stay on the East Coast. After that nutty trip, I didn't want to drive all over again, so I met up with my friend, Molly (another former Madewell co-worker) at Grand Central Market. I don't have any photos to prove it, but I had some delicious vegan miso ramen, even it was too much food for me at the time. Then it was back to Courtney's to sleep.

Saturday, March 24th, 2018

Usually when I come out to the West Coast, I spend part of the time near LA and part of the time near San Diego. This time, since I couldn't get down to San Diego and Solana Beach, where my cousin, Liz, lives, we met halfway in Laguna Beach. 

I spent the morning, adjusting my weird mid-day Tuesday flight to a Monday night red eye and figuring out why JetBlue customer service really is the best. Then I grabbed a snack at bakery nearby and started the drive to Laguna Beach.

I got to the beach a little before Liz & her husband, Jeff, so I took the time to relax in the A/C of my car. We were planning on a little hike (I was prepared in workout clothing, cut I didn't have the best shoes...Converse, my go to, are a little hard to grip the various parts of terrain in), but I didn't know how steep the incline actually was going to be! 

We started out on the path, the Valido Trail, and soon saw that the first half mile was the steepest; almost a 40 incline!? Oof. I was breathing heavy and exhausted, but once we reached the top, the view was unbelievable! A bonus: seeing LC's house from when she was on Laguna Beach and The Hills and then making a short video while playing the theme song to The O.C.

After our hike, we found a place to sit outside, eat and catch up before both driving our separate ways. Back in LA, I helped walk Courtney's pups and caught up with her husband. 

Sunday, March 25th, 2018

Finally, it was wedding day! Since the wedding was about a 30 minute drive away, Courtney & I got up early to get ready. I had purchased a cute new skirt and heels, but opted for sneakers at the last minute, when my friend said it was a casual wedding. Well, it was not. Everyone else was dressed up; suits, dresses, heels...and here I was in a skirt, t-shirt, jean jacket and sneakers. Oops. 

The ceremony was beautiful and partially conducted in Mandarin (oof, are my Chinese skills rusty). The guests were able to enjoy some drinks and snacks while the wedding party was taking their various photos. Finally, we were called to come in and sit in the venue, where I was seated with Nan's parents and some other friends. The crowd was very Chinese, in that when Nan and his newly minted wife, Julie, entered; there was polite clapping and then mine & Courtney's whooping and hollering. We were served course after course of delicious food: New England Clam Chowder, Caesar Salad, Roasted Branzino with Mushroom Risotto and Blueberry Cheesecake. (Oh, don't forget the amazing wedding cake!)

Then it was finally time for some games! Even though I'd known Nan the longest (20+ years), I didn't win, because his Mom had already "won" a prize at our table. Boo. Well, the next game up was a sort of "musical chairs" where we had to complete tasks: run up and give Nan a kiss, run up and give Julie a kiss, bring back a shoe from someone at your table, bring back $20 from your table...I lost on the bring back a child from your table, because the little girl looked terrified. However, I did make it to the last three and was the only girl participating. I might have had a chance to redeem myself in the last game, but the numbers were all announced in Mandarin! Then the DJ/Host heckled me with "Your parents should have taught you Chinese!" I got him right back with "I was adopted!" I probably made a lot of the more traditional Chinese guys embarrassed, but at least we had a great time.

After the food and games, we each got a chance to take a photo with Nan and Julie. Then Courtney & I got her car out of the valet (fancy) and made the drive back to her apartment. We were pretty exhausted from all the excitement, so we changed clothes and chilled for a bit before heading out for dinner and hitting the hay.

Monday, March 26th, 2018 

I didn't have anything planning for my last day in LA, so I decided to do some shopping. I went back to get a pastry from the bakery near Courtney's house, wandered around a book & record shop (what's up with this The Residents album cover!?), took her dogs for a walk, put them in their kennel and packed up my things to head to the airport later that day.

I decided to drive to Glendale and check out Americana. I was wandering around, in search of a place to eat, when I passed by Din Tai Fung. Oh how I wanted xiao long bao from there, but as one person, there was no way to really enjoy all the food there without someone else to help me eat it. However, as soon as I looked across the street and saw an Eggslut, I immediately knew where I had to go! (Especially after being at the Grand Central Market and having that location be closed for dinner.)

I couldn't resist getting my favorite dish from there, "The Slut" and enjoyed the chance to sit for a bit before wandering back through the shopping center. When I had finally walked through all the stores I could handle, I made my way back to my rental car's hotel/home. Since I still had time to kill before getting to LAX for my flight, I chose to eat dinner at the hotel's restaurant before hopping on the hotel shuttle to LAX, to my flight and heading back to NYC.

RuPaul's DragCon - 09.09.17/09.10.17

I waited a little longer than normal to purchase my ticket to RuPaul's DragCon in NYC. I had a handful of friends going, but I didn't want to make a commitment until I knew what the programming would be. In hindsight, the wait for the panels was SO long that even just walking around the convention center floor was entertainment enough.

Day One - Saturday, September 9th, 2017

Who knew that so many people would come out for DragCon!? Organizers were saying that 25,000 people would be at the Javits Center over the two days of the convention! I was almost ready to give up when I saw that the line to get into the building wrapped down the block, around the corner and down by the expressway!

Luckily, my friend, Whitney met up with me in line and we gradually made our way into DragCon. (Oh wait, once we were inside the building, we had to go back downstairs and through security, then back upstairs to actually get into the exhibitors area! Whoa.)

I knew that I had plenty of time to explore the booths, but our first stop was Jeffree Starr, so Whitney could get some make-up. After wandering around a bit and getting my photo with a giant inflatable "squirrel friend", we split up, only to run into each other again at RuPaul's booth, where got some peanut butter chocolate bars, of course! Hanging above Ru's merchandise area were many of her costumes from various seasons of Drag Race. I never knew how tiny she really is! My hands down favorite, was the shiny, gold bodysuit. I love anything with a sparkle.

Many of the queens had merchandise booths; where you could buy a t-shirt, photo, enamel pin and get your photo taken with them. My first stop: the Asian queens! I got a few postcards and a photo with Ongina, but the line for Kimchi was nuts!

Then I made my way to my first panel, the Fashion Panel, with a few of my theater friends, who were in attendance. The panel was Detox, Isaac Mizrahi, Milk , Miss Fame and Naomi Smalls. It was moderated by Mickey Boardman from The Village Voice and was a blast. It was interesting hearing how each of the queens were inspired the fashion industry and how drag goes hand in hand with high fashion and pushing boundaries. It was a little bittersweet, since my Mom had always loved Isaac and she would have been so excited for me to get to be in the same room as him.

Post-panel and snacks, I tried to see Sasha Velour, but her line was nuts! So, I picked up a few merch items: pins, t-shirt, earrings and look book, before heading to Thorgy's booth. Her line was relatively short; about a 30-45 minute wait and since I'd been to many of her DragRace viewing parties at Metropolitan in Williamsburg, I knew I wanted to say "hi" to her and Ragamuffin! Her rainbow outfit completely complimented my Care Bears dress and she was very sweet and sincere.

I wrapped up my Day One with a panel about social awareness, which was supposed to be the only panel that Sasha was going to be at, but she couldn't make it. However, I did get to stare at Nico Tortorella (Younger) for the whole experience, which wasn't a bad swap out. The message about #FakeNews was interesting and how each of the public figures dealt with how they pass on information to their followers.

Day Two - Sunday, September 10th, 2017

When I got to the Javits Center for Day Two, it was off to a better start, since the wrap around the block line was gone. I was determined to try and meet Kimchi, but her line was already going to be at least an hour wait! I spotted Milk, lounging on a couch, in her Marc Jacobs Beauty sponsored booth, but avoided waiting in her line, too. On my way back around the center, I saw Jade Jolie's booth! Even more gorgeous in person, I jumped in line quickly to snap a photo with her, before wandering back to try and get a glimpse of Sasha. 

Little did I know, but I had walked right in behind Sasha Velour that morning! I didn't recognize her with her big, red, curly wig; since she's often bald. I was so close to her! I snuck a few photos and wandered off another way. I made a quick $5 donation to Jiggly Caliente to get a photo with her. If only I had been to see her show at Wet, before it closed! (I guess an Asian gay bar wasn't in as high demand these days...) 

I tried to spot Acid Betty, but her booth was pretty well covered and decorated in all sorts of treats, including a big pink inflatable doughnut. After missing out on food yesterday, I packed a light lunch, so ate my sandwich and chips before waiting to meet Alexis Michelle. Although New Yorkers seem to have very strong feelings about her, as a fellow "Theatre Queen," I knew I had to meet her in person before the Broadway Queens panel, later in the day. While I was waiting in line Farrah stopped by to say hello and we got to watch Alexis as the true diva that she is, controlling the angle of the photo and the lighting. Alexis was very courteous and patient with her line of fans, which I appreciated.

Again, I tried to see Kimchi, but just managed to get a candid photo. As, I was waiting in line to see the Broadway Queens panel, Cynthia Lee Fontaine walked by me, in a gorgeous floral dress. I was able to get a great seat for the panel, featuring Alexis Michelle, Ginger Minj, J. Elaine Marcos and the diva herself, Sheryl Lee Ralph. They talked about where their love of theatre began, what some of the favorite projects have been, but it was Sheryl who stole the show! The crowd was dying for her comments about "put a cork in it" and how to really sell yourself through performance. She also talked about the gay community and how everyone should remember to be respectful. My favorite quotes: "In real theatre, you don't get the opportunity to be late!...The only reason the curtain goes up late is because Barack &  Michelle had not arrived yet!"

All-in-all, a great way to end my first DragCon experience! Yes, it was way more overwhelming than BroadwayCon, but I would totally consider going again. Maybe next time around, I'll plan out more time to meet some of the queens...but hopefully, the organizers learned how to manage the lines better, since no one comes to these events to line up more than an hour in advance for panels!

Vulture Festival - 05.20.17/05.21.17

Yes, I was back at New York Magazine's Vulture Festival for this year! However, this year was slightly marred by too many panels that I wanted to attend all being at the same time and an out-of-town guest that didn't buy his tickets in time! I still managed to make it to five panels this year, but was still missing out on that theatre/Broadway element that they have had for the last few years.

Day One - Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Saturday Morning Cartoons

The usual Animated Voices panel was re-named this year, but still featured most of the cast of Archer and a few other quests. Highlights for me were Aisha Tyler and Jessica Walter. I think the best scene this year was the episode of Sex and the City, where all the girls are gathered in the back of a cab, as Charlotte contemplates "up the butt" sex with her current boyfriend. The scene already plays out hilariously in the show, but the element of cartoony voices only took it to another level!

They also played up the episode of Friends with the game show, in which Joey & Chandler win Monica & Rachel's apartment via Lightning Round and not knowing the actual name of Chandler's job. A classically funny scene, but even better with Bob's BurgersArcher and other cartoon voices.


In Conversation: Aziz Ansari

I might have spoiled a few things about the second season of Master of None for myself at this panel, but that's what I got for not watching the season before the Vulture Festival. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Aziz talk about the making of the second season, why it took so long, the analysis of his soul-mate like relationship with Francesca and how he even learned Italian and how to make pasta. 

The audience seemed a little disappointed that he didn't have an answer for season three of the show, but after all, it took him over a year to make and develop season two. I guess we can't help it if the audience binges it all at once and wants more right away.

Day Two - Sunday, May 21st, 2017

In Conversation: Neil Patrick Harris

At this point, I should count myself lucky with the number of times that I've been able to be in the same space as NPH. Who would have guessed that one day I would get to see him in person, after having a Doogie Howser, MD poster hung up on my closet door in the 90's!? 

NPH came to Vulture Festival to promote A Series of Unfortunate Events on Netflix, which since I haven't watched it, meant less to me. I did love that they showed some of his earlier work; including a funny shower scene from Doogie and one of his Tony Award opening numbers. It was a lot of fun getting ot hear his side of each filming and what was challenging or amusing about having Max Casella film him in only a towel or developing the closing award number as the show went on.

Then we all got a special treat as he called his husband, David Burtka, on FaceTime and we got a chance to see hin talk to his kids and David right on the stage! 

In Conversation: Sarah Jessica Parker and Adam Moss

Admittedly, I did not know who Adam Moss was, before this panel. I did love his camraderie with SJP and she admired his work and vice versa. Of course, everyone wanted to hear about Sex and the City, but we also got the opportunity to hear her talk about filming her new series, Divorce, with Thomas Hayden Church. SJP also chatted about her other passion projects and took the time to answer several questions from the audience in a fairly intimate setting.

Pop Culture Trivia Game Show

This year's Pop Culture Trivia Game Show pitted the cast of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend against the cast of Orange is the New Black and was slightly less of a hot mess than last year's game show, where Casey Wilson and Adam Pally were pretty drunk as the hosts. The venue changed to the smaller space for this year and was CROWDED!

The anticipation level was high and the audience was ready for a fun show. I was sitting closest to the cast from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and enjoyed watching Rachel Bloom and Victor Rodriguez, III go nuts for the right answers and when their team was succeeding. The aucoustics sometimes made it hard to hear what was going on, but it was a fun event nonetheless.

Calgary - 04.20.17/04.23.17

Last Fall, my brother,Philip, graduated from the University of Minnesota with his Doctorate in Political Science, which took him & my sister-in-law, Melanie, to the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. So, before he moves back to the States this year, I figured I should go and visit him in our neighboring Country up North.

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

I arrived in Calgary around 9pm Mountain Standard Time and was pretty hungry. Passing through Customs was easy and I arrive before Philip was at the airport. He drove me through a little bit of downtown Calgary, before we settled on going to Peter's Drive-In for a burger and poutine. We took our food back to the house and indulged in some cheesy, gravy covered french fried goodness before getting settled and going to sleep.

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Mel had to work, so Philip & I went downtown to get brunch at OEB (Over Easy Breakfast), one of Calgary's must-eats for breakfast & brunch. There were SO many good things to choose from, but in my over-eating nature, I had to get something savory & something sweet, so I opted for a meal that gave me eggs, ham, a slice of French Toast and a side of their fried potatoes. Philip opted for one of the "Box'd" dishes, which arrived in a Chinese takeout container. I also appreciated the architecture and design of the restaurant as there were two gazebos inside: one shaped like an egg and one shaped like a waffle.

After brunch, we went to the neighborhood of Kensington. I was on the hunt for used CD stores, ones that might have Broadway Cast albums that I don't already own, but at the same time we wandered through some other shops, browsing through clothes and books. I found a few Haruki Murakami books for $6 US, but was torn on buying some clothes at a local shop; since I hate trying things on.

After killing time around Kensington, we opted to go to Cross Iron Mills, a sort of outlet shopping center with a giant Bass Pro Shops store attached to it. Browsing through all the fishing gear with my brother really reminded me of our childhood; as he used to make his own fishing flies (and still does), participated in casting competitions and shopped through the local tackle & bait shop. Having never been in a Bass Pro Shops before, I was amused at the signage stating to "check all firearms & bows at customer service" before entering the store. The rest of the mall had some great shops and I picked up a few treats, including some maple flavored cookies and chocolates to bring back to work with me. 

After our shopping excursion, we went back home to rest and so Philip could take their dog, Hazel, out on a walk. Once Mel was off work, we decided to try our luck at Hayden Block for some delicious BBQ. The wait was just under an hour, so we walked around Kensington again and got a pre-dinner, dessert. By the time we finally got our table we were pretty hangry and might have ordered a bit too much food, but it was all delicious. The highlight for me was the hush puppies with peppers inside and the creamy side of corn. Post-dinner, it was definitely time for a food-nap/bed.

Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

Saturday morning, Mel had tryouts for the local women's frisbee team, so Philip & I went to the Calgary Farmer's Market and the Glenbow Art Museum. The farmer's market was impressive and housed year-round in a large warehouse-like building. There were lots of local merchants, but I was mostly interested in the food, per usual. While my brother browsed for produce for their next week's meals, I wandered through the food stalls. Eventually, I landed on some potato & cheddar pierogis with potato latkes and a small chicken pot pie. 

We then ventured down to the Glenbow Art Museum. There was a very large exhibit featuring the "Mavericks" of Calgary and Alberta, which was pretty fascinating. However, my favorite part of any museum is the Contemporary and Modern Art exhibits. A definite highlight was the Wayne Gretzky piece by Andy Warhol and a giant acrylic installation, which Philip thought was really weird.

After Mel's frisbee tryout, we all went back downtown to get xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at one of their favorite spots in Chinatown, Great Taste. Post-dinner, Mel helped me on my quest to find some great bubble tea and we walked down the street to a little spot that had TONS of bubble tea options. I opted for a Jasmine tea with soy milk and boba, which made up for the disappointing bubble tea I had at the mall earlier.

Sunday, April 23rd, 2017

For my last day in Calgary, we drove just over an hour outside of Calgary to walk around Banff National Park. But like any good Canadian, we stopped at Tim Horton's on the way out for breakfast. Admittedly, I haven't been to many Tim Horton's in NYC, so it felt right to go in Calgary. I had to try their pretzel bagel with sausage & egg; which was chewy and savory. I tried to read a bit in the car on the way up, but was unsuccessful; so I spent a lot of the time looking at the scenery, wildlife and taking a brief nap.

We arrived in Banff, which was a very beautiful resort town and walked around the restaurants and shops until it was time to drive up to the Banff Gondola, so we could ascend to the top of one of the mountains for great views. The weather was beautiful, in the lower 40's, so it was chilly, but not freezing - even with all the snow around us. The ride in the gondola took just under 10 minutes and took us almost 8,000 feet up into the Rockies. We then climbed up more to visit the Cosmic Ray Station on Sulfur Mountain and to see where the satellite that once captured cosmic rays was stationed.

After our gondola ride and hike, we'd worked up an appetite and went back into town to find lunch. Philip chose something that was basically another name for a Philly cheese steak and I got a burger, to satisfy a long-lasting craving. Mel & I topped off the meal with a "Beavertail" - fried whole wheat dough topped with a variety of items. As you can see, we chose the Nutella and banana one.

Before heading back home, we drove to Johnston Canyon to walk along some cliffs (not the easiest in Converse high tops) and view a spectacular, albeit kinda frozen waterfall. The detour was worth it, since the slippery conditions made the trails a bit less crowded and we were actually able to get a clear view of the waterfall.

Then came the ride back, where Mel & I couldn't resist taking a nap. Once home, I started to gather all my things for my super late flight back home and Philip made us all dinner. Overall, it was a wonderful way to get out of the city and another excuse to travel somewhere "International" and to use my passport. Perhaps my next adventure with my brother will be in Wisconsin, since he'll be teaching there in the Fall. 

Portland & Seattle - 10.06.16/10.10.16

Finally, I got a chance to take a little vacation from the city. I had not had the chance to travel anywhere since April, when I went to Kansas City for a a few days. After reuniting with an old college friend, I decided to fly out to Portland, OR for a few days and then travel up to Seattle, WA before heading back home. I got the chance to hang out with some friends and explore a new city, all while being a bit of a tourist and enjoying some great food.

Portland - 10.06.16/10.08.16

I took my first flight on Virgin America to San Francisco, before heading onto Portland. Although, I didn't think out when I would by flying, since it fell after a weekend of rollouts at work. Having worked two overnights and then going straight into a closing shift with an event wasn't the smartest, but I had a decent amount of flight time to recover.

I was expecting to take an Uber and meet up with my college friend, Ian, in Portland. However, I was lucky, because he picked me up at the airport. I took an obligatory photo of the PDX airport carpet, but didn't have much time to explore one of the more pleasant airports in the US. I was waiting for my bags when Ian came up and it was hard to believe that it had been 12 years since we'd last seen each other. It almost felt like no time had passed.

As we drove through Portland, he gave me a brief tour and we caught up on life. (I was amused to see that he still had his Nebraska license plates on his car.) After a brief stop at his home, we picked up one of his friends and went out to dinner at Imperial (home of Doug from Top Chef). Being the good foodie that I am, I checked out their menu on Yelp! and knew that I needed to get one of their Parker House rolls. Ian must have had a long day, because he briefly fell asleep at the dinner table, which we mocked him to no end for, before heading home for the night.

The next day, Ian had to work, so I went on a mission to find some great food and shops. Everyone says that you need to go to Voodoo Doughnuts, but I went with the local favorite, Blue Star. Their doughnuts are made with brioche and I couldn't get just one. I walked away with a classic yeast glazed with horchata and a cake with sugar & spice. (Yes, I also bought two to go - apple pie fritter and a Mexican hot chocolate.) I walked along NW 23rd and got a really cool brass cuff at Betsy & Iya before heading downtown.

Some of my favorite stops included Everyday Music, where I found lots of great Broadway cast recordings (including a double CD set of Chess) before making my way to Powell Books. I found some great little boutiques on the walk, adding a gift for Ellie and a boy band coloring book to my purchases. I also stopped by the Madewell in the Pearl District, which was pretty cool, since I helped put together the real estate packet back when I worked at the Madewell office in 2013, before that store opened.

I didn't buy anything at Powell's, but I could have spent hours in the store, perusing so many categories and trinkets. Finally, I went in search of food and since it was #fatfriday, I grabbed some slices at Sizzle Pie, before wandering around some more. I found a great candy store, Quin, where I got chai tea lollipops and some cherry gummies

Before heading back to Ian's, I found my dream store, Billy Galaxy. This store was filled with nostalgic toys from the 80's and 90's; Care Bears, My Little Ponies, She-Ra, Gloworms - my dream. I didn't buy anything, but I could only imagine what I would add to my collection weekly, if I lived in Portland.

Friday evening, Ian had tickets to a pre-season Portland Trail Blazers game vs. the Phoenix Suns, so we spent the night watching basketball and hanging with some of his coworkers from Nike. As a mild sports fan, I enjoyed watching the game, but stadium food is a big reason I love sporting events and a fried chicken sandwich on a cheddar chive biscuit from Fowl Language was calling my name! I had to end the night with some of Portland's famous ice cream from Salt & Straw, before we called it a night.

My train to Seattle wasn't until the afternoon, so Ian made breakfast and I made him watch the latest episode of RuPaul's Drag Race with me. Then we headed down to Chinatown and explored the Lan Su Chinese Garden, a beautiful replica of what you might find in China. We met up with my friend, Amanda and her soon-to-be husband, Dustin for brunch in a restaurant that looked like an old log cabin made of giant Lincoln Logs. Then, Amanda and I walked around some of the cool shops nearby before Ian took me to the Amtrak station. A very fast and furious day and a half, but I would come back to Portland anytime.


Seattle - 10.08.16/10.10.16

Although it was my first time in Portland, this would be my second time in Seattle. The first time was when my best friend, Jenn, lived in Lakewood a few years back, but we didn't get much time in the city, proper. This time, I took a cheap and quick Amtrak up from Portland and my friend, Michelle, picked me up at the train station. Since we were already near the International District, we got some great Vietnamese food and some shaved ice for dessert. Since it was Saturday, I convinced Michelle to stay up late with me and watch Saturday Night Live, since Lin-Manuel Miranda (of HAMILTON fame) was the the host, and somehow we made it through the night.

Sunday morning, Michelle had a meeting, so she dropped me off at the Starbucks Roastery. I got the chance to see their beautiful concept store and have a great cup of chai with an everything pretzel bagel. Then I walked towards Capital Hill before going downtown and finding another Madewell (I can't help it, I'm a nerd...). The best part was wandering into the Nordstrom Rack and finding a Proenza Schouler '16 Resort dress in my size for $220, which was originally almost $1500! (Now, I just need somewhere fancy to wear it!) I was wandering through a few shops, when it was already time to meet up with Michelle.

We traveled into a suburb to try out a new Filipino bakery that had just opened a storefront. Hood Famous Bakery had lots of good treats, but I went with the pandan cheesecake and a purple velvet (ube) cookie! After we had our fill, we went to the Henry Art Gallery on the University of Washington Campus, where we saw some great exhibits and most interestingly, wood carved sculptures with a play on Snow White. We walked around the cam pus for a bit before driving up to a great overlook, so I could get some photos of the Seattle skyline. This night was also the 2nd Presidential Debate, so we went back to Michelle's apartment to watch it before grabbing some delicious fish & chips at Spud's, right next to her apartment.

For my last day in the Pacific Northwest, Michelle had to leave early for work, so I took an Uber into the city to meet up with a former coworker, Kate and spend the rest of my day exploring Seattle. We met up at Biscuit Bitch for brunch and caught up on life. Then we went to the Pike Place Public Market (you know, where they throw the fish like in the opening of The Real World: Seattle, does anyone remember that season, now?) for treats and gifts. I had to stop and get treats from one of my favorite stands, Chukar Cherries, and found a great little gift for my Mom for Christmas. After wandering around the market, we went to the Space Needle and rode up to the observatory. The 360 degree views of the city were amazing! 

After the Space Needle, I convinced Kate to go to the Dale Chihuly Glass & Sculpture Garden. Ever since I saw one of his exhibitions at the Jocelyn Art Museum in Omaha, when I was in high school, I have been fascinated by his blown glass artwork. I love the colors, pieces and how they are all put together. It was the perfect weather to stroll around in the garden and the sunlight was perfect for photos of his work.

Then, with a bit of time to kill before heading to the airport, we went to Dick's and enjoyed some cheap hamburgers, late-night diner style, and fries. I was very lucky that I have great friends to helped cart me around and saved me money on getting a rental car!

Vulture Festival - 05.21.16/05.22.16

For the third year in a row, New York Magazine, hosted their Annual "Vulture Festival" of pop culture events in the city. There were plenty of panels and activities to keep me occupied on the weekend before my birthday and I stacked both days with lots to do.

Day One - Saturday, May 21st, 2016

Hollywood Handbook Podcast

I got up nice & early on Saturday to head down to Chelsea & Milk Studios for this panel. I was not familiar with the "Hollywood Handbook" podcast, but from the description, it should have been an inside look into the world of Hollywood. What it ended up being was 30 minutes of two guys opening up iTunes on their computer and trying to find their own podcast in the top podcasts online. Ugh. I couldn't believe I was missing the Muppets panel for this mess! Finally when they were describing clicking their mouse as "smash it!" I decided to leave, see if I could get into the Muppets panel and get a refund. No luck on the refund, but at least I made it to the Muppets panel!

Morning with the Muppets

Already better than the Hollywood Handbook panel, a bunch of nerds were watching clips from various Muppet programming and laughing, having a great time. This was where I belonged in the first place! 

One of the editors from New York Magazine came out and interviewed Kermit the Frog. They talked about all sorts of things: the cancellation of the ABC show, what things Kermit liked to do, his breakup with Miss Piggy, etc. Then they brought out Fozzie the Bear and things got much more fun. They talked about being in NYC (referencing Muppets Take Manhattan!) and how Fozzie didn't realize that the show had been cancelled. 

After a few more minutes, the actual Muppet players were freed from their crouching positions under the tables and the conversation got a little more candid, talking about the changes after Jim Henson's passing and what it was like working on the TV show. After a short Q&A, the puppeteers brought up some volunteers from the audience and taught them how to operate a few various puppets to the tune of "Tubthumping" by Chumbawumba. That song will never sound the same to me now!

Difficult People Table Read

After a short break, I went back to Milk Studios for the table read of an episode of Difficult People, a TV show on Hulu, featuring Billy Eichner and Julie Klausner as best friends and cynical New Yorkers with a love of pop culture & musicals; how perfect for me!

This table read would be for the third episode of the second season and featured many of my favorite TV and Broadway stars! In this panel alone were Amy Poehler, Nathan Lane, Megan Hilty and Andrea Martin. 

Noticeably absent, was Gabourey Sidibe, who got called back to Chicago to shoot Empire, which her character's husband, Nate, even made a reference to during the table read. Amy read all the stage directions and it was loads of fun watching these comedians and actors portray their crazy characters right infront of me!

Animated Voices

Last year, I missed out on the Animated Voices panel, but it has always been on of the most popular sessions during the festival. The premise: famous animated/cartoon voice actors read famous TV/movie scenes as their beloved animated counterparts.

The highlights for me: Maurice LeMarche (the voice of Brain from PInky and the Brain) and Alex Borstein (Ms. Swan, Family Guy, Gilmore Girls). 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: A Musical Revue

Rounding out Day One, was a panel with Rachel Bloom from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, a new-ish musical comedy TV show on The CW. I did not watch the show when it initially premiered, then Rachel won the Golden Globe and I found out Santino Fontana was also on the show, so I binged and caught up.

Another editor from New York Magazine talked with Rachel, one of her producers and her musical director about how some of the songs came to be: from demo to tracks to the music video. We heard some demos, rough cuts, watched videos, laughed and even got a little performance of "Sexy French Depression" from Rachel. And, oh yeah, she even said "Bless You!" when I sneezed rather loudly during the panel!

Day Two - Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

RENT Sing-A-Long

Day Two and the MTA train gods were not on my side! I couldn't miss out on the RENT Sing-A-Long, which featured some of my favorite Broadway stars and one of my all-time favorite musicals! Luckily, I made it in time and managed to grab a decent seat (here's where it pays to go to these things alone, lots of free single seats towards the front!)

The RENT Sing-A-Long featured Nikki M. James (The Book of Mormon, Les Miserables), Adam Kantor (Fiddler on the Roof, The Last Five Years), Lena Hall (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Kinky Boots), Gideon Glick (Significant Other, Spring Awakening), Ben Cameron (Broadway Sessions) and Paige Davis (Chicago, "Trading Spaces"). And started off with a bang, with everyone joining in on "RENT!" At one point, Paige even gave me her microphone, so I could sing along with all the celebs!

Throughout the sing-a-long, the actors and actresses shared their favorite RENT moments with the crowd and we learned just how dedicated Nikki M. James was to her RENThead moments (camping outside the Nederlander, sneaking into the city, etc.).

Other highlights, "One Song Glory," Nikki & Gideon singing "Light My Candle," Lena having to look up the words to "Out Tonight" and writhing around on the crowd in a Madewell necklace, crying along with everyone listening to Nikki sing "Without You," Lena rocking out to "Over the Moon" in her own Maureen fantasy she never got to live out and the finale of "Seasons of Love!"

In Conversation: Shonda Rimes

Why yes, I was sitting about 10 feet away from Shonda Rhimes, herself! Although I gave up on watching Grey's Anatomy years ago, I'm still a fan of her work, mostly for How To Get Away with Murder and the Britney Spears' classic, Crossroads.

During the panel, Shonda spoke with an editor from New York Magazine about her book, saying "Yes" to things, overcoming her fear of public speaking, her love of HAMILTON, and her TV shows.

I have a lot of respect for the empire that she has built and how her work constantly challenges the television viewing audience and makes characters that we all get invested in. Maybe I'll have to read her book after all. Maybe I'll be saying "Yes" to some things I never knew I would...

Pop Culture Trivia Game Show

The Pop Culture Trivia Game Show (PCTGS?) was the last panel for me over the weekend, and one of the last panels of the whole festival. The game show was hosted by Casey Wilson and Adam Pally, who were both coming from the Happy Endings panel that was sold out (thus, I couldn't go) and noticeably drunk and annoyed that they had agreed to host this game show.

The teams this year were the cast of Younger (minus Sutton Foster and Hilary Duff) against the cast of You're the Worst (of which, I only knew Kether Donoghue, but mostly from Grease!: Live). 

The rules seemed overly complicated for a fun game, but Casey and Adam managed to make it fun, even when the rounds went on forever. There were some audience members that won a contest and got to compete for some lame prizes (mostly stuff leftover from the New York Magazine offices), but at least they got to be onstage for a bit!

Kansas City - 04.02.16/04.07.16

It's hard to think that I haven't had a real vacation from work since last September, when I went to Southern California. Yes, I could choose to go to a tropical island or somewhere more typically "vacation-y," but it's nice to return to my roots and take a little break in the Midwest.

So, I flew to Kansas City for a few days of relaxation & catching up with old friends and their assorted ages of children. (Yup, it's that time when all my friends are married and/or having kids.) I spent some time trying out some new places to eat in KC, but had to grab some KC BBQ (Oklahoma Joe's), a Runza and a few of my old favorites from over a decade ago, when I lived here.

While I was in town, I stayed with my friend, Charity & her husband, Grant in Overland Park, made an excursion to Target, enjoyed the time driving around in my little red rental car and met up with many friends. My friend, Christian, drove into KC from St. Louis with his husband, Aidan, and their son, Alexander; so, naturally we had to get brunch at Big Biscuit and indulge in all our old eating habits.

I finally got the chance to see The Martian, after reading the book and caught up with one of my closest college friends, Brad; had lunch with an old co-worker, Kristen, met up with my cousin, Katie & her 3 month old son, River and wrapped up the trip with high school friends, Katie & Nate at a new restaurant.

In between, I managed to get to the Kemper Contemporary Art Museum and the Nelson-Atkins Museum (I never can resist those Oldenburg shuttlecock sculptures). I also swung by the new Madewell on the Country Club Plaza and walked through the Urban Outfitters where I spent the majority of my time working in 2005-2007.