Mumford & Sons on their Delta Tour

When I became a Mumford & Sons fan, Chuck and I were in the midst of trying to move back to Tennessee after living in Texas for two years. He was already back home, but the boys and I were stuck in Amarillo waiting for our house to sell. I don’t remember the exact phone call, but at some point in the fall of 2010, Chuck told me about a song he’d heard on the radio, and he thought I’d like it. As soon as I listened to “Little Lion Man,” I was hooked.

I wore out Sigh No More immediately, and, after moving back to East Tennessee in March 2011, Chuck and I drove to Asheville in June 2011 to see the band in concert. We were blown away by their energy on stage. They sounded exactly as they did on the album, which is always a sure sign of a good artist.

When Babel was released in 2012, it was a fast favorite. The band went on their Gentlemen of the Road tour in 2013, and I drove down to Atlanta with Karin to see them a second time. The band went in a new direction with Wilder Mind, which I didn’t mind, and when Delta came out last year, they did it again with another new sound. No matter what they do, I love it. (I feel the same way about The Killers, the other band I’ll always pay to see.)

We headed to Nashville Friday afternoon in time to grab dinner and drinks before sunset.

It was windy on that rooftop bar, so when I tried to take our photo, a gust of wind rolled through at the exact moment the camera snapped, whisking away the menu. I couldn’t have staged a better photo if I tried. This image captures our marriage perfectly – Chuck is calm and collected. I am freaking out. It’s all about balance.

This was the view across from our hotel, which was nicely situated next to Bridgestone Arena. I stared at the museum for several minutes before realizing the reflection showed piano keys in the design.

But onto the most important news: The concert. It was a low-frills show, a centered stage with modest lights. That didn’t bother me because I don’t go to see the band. I mainly want to hear them. Minus one song (which isn’t really a song but instead a recitation of Paradise Lost), I loved everything I heard. I sang and jumped and clapped and smiled. It was marvelous.

The only song I captured fully on my cell phone was their cover of “Hurt” – which I anticipated them playing since I’ve been following their set lists the entire tour. Originally a Nine Inch Nails song, which is great on its own, Johnny Cash also covered the song on American IV: The Man Comes Around.

To hear Marcus sing it gives me chills.

T’was a perfect night with my favorite guy.

The Killers Concert, Atlanta 2018

It all began with “Mr. Brightside” and Hot Fuss in 2004. It was a new sound, something I hadn’t heard before, and when Sam’s Town came out two years later, I knew The Killers were a different sort of band and I was going to love them indefinitely. Then came Sawdust, Day & Age, and Battle Born, and then there were Brandon Flower’s solo albumsFlamingo and The Desired Effect – and now we have Wonderful, Wonderful.

What is this kind of music anyway? Rock, yes. But some songs take me five or six tries to fully embrace them. I don’t get the melody or the lyrics are strange. (That’s Brandon Flowers for you.)

Sure enough, once they’re embraced, it’s concrete. I’ve run hundreds of miles to the sound of The Killers.

Short of one song I’d love to hear live (“Miss Atomic Bomb“), they played everything I hoped they would.

From “Dustland Fairytale” and “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” to “When We Were Young” and “Mr. Brightside,” even “Run for Cover,” my favorite on Wonderful, Wonderful, I sang along to every single word. I loved it. I. LOVED. IT.

(Other songs on the playlist – “Human,” “Read My Mind,” “Somebody Told Me,” “Spaceman,” “The Way It Was,” “I Can’t Stay,” “Smile Like You Mean It,” “For Reasons Unknown,” “Rut,” “Runaways,” “All These Things That I Have Done,” “The Calling,” and “This River is Wild” – which is a huge favorite!)

The encore was the most fun. They’d left the stage so we could lure them back. Instead of lighters, we held up our cell phones. I couldn’t believe we produced enough light to illuminate the entire arena.

They were back on stage for four more songs, and we lost our minds all over again.

Brandon Flowers was notes away from losing his voice, but the crowd was on fire. We were thunderous. We sang the words for him. How could we not?

I don’t go to a lot of concerts, but when I do, it’s for my favorites (and with my favorites).

Five Things I Learned from S-Town

If you love the Serial Podcasts as much as I do, then you’re probably going to give S-Town a try, even though 1) it isn’t Serial No. 3, and 2) it’s not narrated by Sarah Koenig.

When all seven episodes dropped on March 28, I found plenty of tedious tasks to do so I could binge without too much interruption. I listened while the boys worked on school assignments independently, and I listened while I found random spaces to clean around the house. I listened at the gym and in the car and in the restroom. Every moment I didn’t have to talk to someone, I was listening to S-Town. By the end of the day, as episode seven ended, I knew I’d start all over again and listen a second time.

Yes, it is as good and interesting as Serial, but it’s not at all what I, and many listeners, expected.

I won’t spoil the series for you because you must go into S-Town completely blind. It works best if you don’t know anything beforehand. Do yourself a favor and do not Google the series.

However, before the inspiration left me, I wanted to share five things I’ve learned from S-Town.

No. 1: Ignorance can be perpetual. Some people can pick up and leave a place. Some can’t. Some wouldn’t know where to start, and some don’t have the inclination to try. Small Town America (“small” is not what the S stands for, by the way) can be charming and inviting, a place where everyone is family. It can also be a place where ignorance breeds and multiplies. We learn in S-Town that ignorance can be broad and blatant, but it can also exist in the mind of a genius. While listening to the voices of these strangers, I wondered about all the things I don’t know or refuse to acknowledge.

No. 2: Trying to understand someone is worthwhile. Stereotypes exist because they are anchored by real things – cultural norms, societal trends, even mundane things like personal habits. And while stereotypes can create space for understanding, they also leave a lot of room for criticism, judgment, and expectation. We all fall into groups on some level, but we are also comprised of unique personal experiences, influences, and decisions. Brian Reed, the narrator, could’ve walked away from this project when a particular detail fell through, but instead he expressed a desire and need to understand John B. McLemore beyond the reasons that originally brought the two men together. We are a complicated species, but we all deserve consideration in an attempt to be understood.

No. 3: Every story has layers, seen and unseen. In episode one, you think you’re headed down a particular road, but by the time episode seven wraps, you realize all of your predictions were way off. Heck, you abandon all plausibilities by the end of episode two! We are a presumptuous bunch, aren’t we? We recognize our own lives as specific and complicated, yet we fail to extend grace to the complications of others. How quick we are to assume! We may have cause to judge one action over another, but this series reminds us that we ought not to judge the intentions and burdens of others. We have no clue about the matters in one’s heart.

No. 4: Storytelling is the truest form of education. The oral tradition of storytelling predates the written word and transports us to a time when our culture and society was primarily built by this method. It’s how traditions are passed down and how we remember pivotal points in our lives. Telling stories really is as old as time, so it’s no wonder that we still connect with this medium on a basic level. It’s a pivotal way we learn about ourselves, but it’s essential when we need to learn about those who are different from us. When we hear their voices, listen to their stories, when we connect with something they say, we are better for it. Podcasts in general have been one of my favorite 21st Century inventions, but series like S-Town, Serial, and This American Life remind us that the world is big and varied. We should all do a lot less talking and a lot more listening.

No. 5: We cannot and should not waste time. This is a realization I came to a couple of years ago but I’m reminded of it often when a plan falls through, when a loved one dies, when a tragedy happens. Time is a recurring theme in S-Town – how we spend it, how we waste it, how we long for time that’s no longer available, how we wish for a time that’s not yet come. Not wasting time does NOT mean we need to hurry up and hustle, or fill every second of our day with activity. Not wasting time means being intentional and present in the time you have. When we work, we should do so because we have something to contribute, something to add, something to achieve. When we rest, it’s because our mind and body need it. When we choose a book over flipping channels, or a night in instead of a night out, it’s because there’s only a certain type of nourishment that will do. To spend our time wisely means to acknowledge and embrace the reasons for our choices. It means saying yes and no when you mean yes and no. We have no guarantees here. None.

I am curious to hear the overall reactions to S-Town. A simple Google search produced both positive and negative results, people who loved it as much as I did, others who found plenty to complain about, and a few who are undecided.

But isn’t that who we are? A diverse, multi-cultural, mishmash of passionate people who have varying degrees of thought on everything under the sun?

And yet, every single one of us craves a little understanding and tiny bit of grace.

P.S. – S-Town is not for kids.

Favorite Thing: States of Undress

Chuck and I have been watching a lot of VICELAND lately, the new cable channel from VICE. Its documentary-style format and controversial topics keep our attention. We often hit the pause button to discuss whatever the subject matter is.

Though I’ve only seen four of the six scheduled episodes, I’m comfortable telling you that States of Undress is one you should watch. Model and actress Hailey Gates travels to war-torn, tumultuous countries – like Pakistan, Russia, Congo – to investigate the role fashion plays in various cultures.

Hailey Gates

But this show is much, much more than fashion. It peels away the layers of societal roles, the power of the government, how natives explore (or can’t explore) self-expression, and how the world responds to each culture’s norms. So far, the episode with Hailey in Pakistan is the most intriguing. One minute she’s at Karachi Fashion Week, the next she’s in a burka talking to a religious leader with strong ties to Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. (Currently, this episode is free to watch online.)

Three Things I Love:

  1. It explores the role and impact of self-expression in diverse cultures. And by “diverse,” I mean cultures that are vastly different from my own. I spent much of the Russia episode with my jaw to the floor.
  2. The span of topics within one episode is wide and there is always a history lesson. For example, in the Russia episode, we get a recap of how regimes shifted from Yeltsin to Putin and how the generations have responded to the change in value systems. Again, jaw to the floor.
  3. Hailey Gates is a natural. She’s a pleasure to watch.

A second show we enjoy watching is Balls Deep. Nothing is off limits for Thomas Morton, which means it’s mostly definitely not a show for kids.  (If you can, watch episode #3 when Thomas joins a Muslim family in Michigan to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan. It’s fascinating.)

A return to my first love

In 1988, I was ten years old and in the fourth grade. I lived in Grafenwöhr, West Germany, and attended school on the Army base with a bunch military brats who craved American music and pop culture. Every Sunday we’d listen to the Top 40 with Shadoe Stevens on the one and only radio station in English, AFRTS. We waited all week to hear the latest music from Debbie Gibson, Bobby Brown, Def Leppard, and, of course, New Kids on the Block. That was all well and good and wonderful. But for me, I held out for one band in particular.

Bon Jovi. And yes, these were the posters that hung on my bedroom wall. I still have them.

Jon Bon Jovi

While my sister papered her walls with pull-out NKOTB posters from Teen Beat magazine, my walls were covered by Jon, Richie, Tico, David, and Alec. My Trapper Keeper was the cover of the Bon Jovi New Jersey album. With my teased bangs and permed mullet, I sang my heart out to “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer,” oblivious to the fact that Slippery When Wet referred to anything other than a common street sign. Ahem.

Jon Bon Jovi was my first heart throb, my first flutter of something that made me swoon. That affection lasted well into adulthood when I finally saw him in concert on their Crush tour in 2000 and again when they released Have a Nice Day in 2005. (My mother took us to see New Kids on the Block in Munich, but seeing Bon Jovi in concert was a no-go in elementary school.)

Though I bought and mostly enjoyed Lost Highway, my Bon Jovi affection officially waned when Mumford & Sons and The Killers took up residence in my heart. Yet, their music will forever be nostalgic to me. It is a large part of the soundtrack of my childhood.

This morning, for reasons unknown, I wanted to reach back into the depths of my iTunes collection and unearth some nostalgia. On the way to our homeschool co-op classes this morning, I played for the boys a selection of my favorite older Bon Jovi songs, including “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “Someday I’ll be Saturday Night,” and “Lay Your Hands on Me.” The boys indulged me and endured the music as loud as we could stand it.

When we got to where we were going, I threw the car in park, turned off the music, and said, “So, what do you think? Do you like my old music?”

To which they replied, in order:

Jeremy: “Some of this music is inappropriate.”
Jackson: “Let’s listen to more!”

So I played it all the way home too.

 

Blog Challenge Day 22: 10 songs

Name my 10 favorite songs.

These are in no specific order, and I’m forgoing an explanation of why they are a favorite. I’ll just say that some songs are favorites because they represent a soundtrack to a particular time in my life, and some are favorites because the lyrics and music are perfectly married.

(I linked every song to a YouTube video and did well to avoid links with ads.)

  1. “Across the Great Divide” by Nanci Griffith (originally a Kate Wolf song)
  2. “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons
  3. “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams

    Don Williams

  4. “Good to be Home” by The Everybodyfields
  5. “When It’s All Been Said and Done” by Robin Mark
  6. “When You Were Young” by The Killers
  7. “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos
  8. “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama
  9. “Silver Stallion” by The Highwaymen
  10. “The Space Between” by Dave Matthews Band

Favorite thing: BBC’s Broadchurch

This isn’t a new show, but it might be new to you. I’m always looking for TV show recommendations, so here’s my recommendation for you.

broadchurch

Filmed in Somerset and Dorset, but set in the fictional town of Broadchurch, Detective Inspector Alec Hardy is brought to the sleepy seaside town to investigate the murder of 11-year-old Danny Latimer. From the looks of things, Danny jumped off a cliff to his death, but evidence soon transpires that Danny was not alone the night he died. DI Hardy is paired with Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller, also a close family friend to the Latimers, to investigate the murder. The two have impeccable chemistry on screen (unromantic, I might add).

Season 1 of Broadchurch is entirely about Danny’s murder. Each of the eight episodes takes a closer look at a possible suspect: the sketchy convenient store owner, the attractive hotel manager, the town vicar, etc. At the end of the season, someone is finally arrested in what seems like a lock-tight case.

Then comes Season 2 when said suspect pleads not guilty and everything gets unearthed – including Danny’s body. Also in Season 2 is a re-examination of one of DI Hardy’s former cases, the one that went awry and left him on the brink of exhaustion and delusion. Both Danny’s murder case and the disappearance of two girls in Sandbrook draw to a close at the end.

Three things I love:favorites logo

  1. Binge quality. It’s infinitely difficult to watch one episode and not press play on the next one because the cliffhangers are unreal.
  2. On top of keeping viewers on edge, the filming of this show caused “The Broadchurch Effect” in southwestern England. So beautiful is the cinematography that people want to travel there and see the cliffs for themselves. 
  3. True suspense. Until the very end, you have no clue who killed Danny. Even my former police officer husband didn’t piece the whole thing together until the end – and that’s saying something. This is the guy who ruins almost every mystery movie I’ve seen because he figures it out in the first five minutes.

Broadchurch is currently available on Amazon and some OnDemand cable/satellite plans.

Friends and Ryan Bingham

We ran off to Chattanooga this weekend for a much-needed refueling via long-distance friends. The kids played, we played. Everyone was exhausted by the time we got home yesterday afternoon. As usual, being in Chattanooga was hugely nostalgic.

In between the frivolity was a funeral on Monday for Corey’s grandmother, the sweet woman who let me sleep over on a weekly basis when I was 14 years old. She was tiny but feisty, and she lived a long happy life. It was important that I pay my respects and be with my best friend on a difficult day.

I’m not sure if it’s irony or just good timing, but we had long-standing plans to attend a Ryan Bingham concert with Corey in Chattanooga on Monday night, so after all the tears and hugs that afternoon in Atlanta, we enjoyed a couple hours of good music and great company.

For the record, he’s even better on stage.

Ryan Bingham

 

On the subject of killing someone

I’ve spent the last week trying to formulate someone’s death and so far nothing feels right.

Need some context? There’s a character in my novel who must die and I’ve been trying to construct the way in which it should happen. During my run yesterday morning I imagined several different ways the death could occur, and at one point I was so distracted that I nearly slipped off the road into a ditch.

This dilemma is a new plot point, one I had to talk myself into exploring. Now that I’m confident in my decision, I have the burdensome task of inflicting a great deal of pain on many characters. It’s the right thing to do, but I admit it feels odd to sit around imagining ways one could die.

These are Karen Eiffel moments and I’m totally loving it.

2006 Stranger Than Fiction  004

Have you seen Stranger Than Fiction? It’s my most favorite film, one that continues to mean more to me as I trudge along in this journey to write a book.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/mtkRGIegvug]

[youtube=http://youtu.be/JjsQ04Ad5BA]

I don’t have writer’s block, but until I figure out how this person will die, I’ll continue to play out different accidents and illnesses in my mind. Come late August, I’ll be back to writing the novel full time and I’ll have to have this death thing all sorted out.


 

Portland

We’d been on the road since Tuesday (the day the government shut down), and on Friday morning we left the coast and drove to Portland.

Side note: Have you seen Portlandia? It’s not a show for everyone. In fact, the first time I watched it, I didn’t laugh but instead sat with my mouth gaping open in confusion. What is this? By the second episode I was chuckling. By the third episode I’d put the show on a season pass. It’s funny, quirky, different. It’s a sketch comedy starring Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen. They love Portland, so they make fun of it.

My favorite is the “Put a bird on it” sketch. Sure enough, in Portland, birds are on everything.

Anyway, our stay in Portland was short because we only put it on the itinerary for two reasons – to visit Powell’s Books and have dinner with our friends, Ashley and Andrew.

As a surprise bonus, our hotel room had the most perfect view of Mt. Hood.

View of Mt. Hood

Sunrise! Sunrise in PortlandPowells

A couple of things about Portland:

The hotel staff could not have been kinder. (I knew it would be a good stay when I noticed a canvas photograph of an Underwood typewriter hanging in the lobby. Good taste, Marriott!) Their kindness was overwhelmingly confirmed when Chuck made a casual remark to the buffet cook, Cynthia, about how good their hazelnut butter tasted. He asked her if it was available somewhere in town for purchase. She told him it was made for commercial use but that she’d be happy to give us a jar. Delighted by the gesture, we assumed she’d probably get busy and forget.

She didn’t. A little gift bag arrived at our room just as we were about to leave. Inside were two bottles of Voss water, a sweet note, and a delicious jar of fresh hazelnut butter.

Hazelnut butter

With hazelnut butter in hand, Powell’s Books was our final stop in Portland. If Hug Point is the backyard of heaven, then Powell’s Books is its library. The bookstore covers an entire city block and is home to nearly 70,000 square feet of new, used, and rare books. I wandered around in a time warp until I realized we needed to head to Seattle. If you have the chance to go, then go. (The rare books room is my favorite.)

The Marvelous Mumford and Sons… Again

I squealed like a teenage girl. It was fantastic.

The whole process of getting tickets to a Mumford concert is complicated. You have to apply to be considered to purchase tickets. I’d been rejected twice already, so when I received an invitation to purchase tickets for the Atlanta concert, I had no pause. Two tickets. Immediately. Yes, please.

My original date for the evening, the hubs, had a work conflict, so Karin was my concert buddy for Atlanta. We met up with Corey and Gwen, along with another great couple, grabbed dinner, and found a spot on the grass in Centennial Olympic Park for The Full English tour.

camera_20130910195749591 camera_20130910195942070Chuck and I have seen Mumford and Sons before in June 2011. At that time, they were just breaking big numbers and developing an enormous fan base at rapid speed. That meant our concert venue was a bit smaller and better controlled. Last night’s concert was outdoor and housed a thousand layers of sweaty people. Don’t get me wrong – it was spectacular. But, if you’re even a touch claustrophobic or are sensitive to cigarette smoke (or other smoke) or prefer not to have cheap beer spilled on your feet, then perhaps an outdoor concert isn’t for you.

But this was Mumford and Sons, so none of that mattered.

20130910_210953 camera_20130910210924313 camera_20130910210828291The most puzzling part of the night was this couple: camera_20130910223757551 copyThey took the grassy spot in front of our blankets, right behind two garbage cans, laid down in a drunken stupor, and slept through the entire concert. Even after the final song concluded (The Cave), and we began to walk out of the park, they continued to lay there. For minute we wondered if we should wake them up and tell them to go home, but… we didn’t.

Countdown to Date Night

The first time Jackson saw an advertisement for Oz the Great and Powerful he announced with fervor that he wanted to see it. He has memorized the movie trailer and has been counting down the days to its premiere, particularly because I agreed to take him, and only him, on a date to go see it. We made this arrangement partly because neither Chuck nor Jeremy expressed interest and also because I love spending one-on-one time with my littlest. It happens so infrequently.

Since last week, Jackson has been making daily declarations on how many more days we have “until our date.”

“Twelve more days until our date!” he’ll say.

“Ten more days until our date!” he’ll tell me.

We woke up to snow on Saturday morning, and even though Jeremy is ill with the flu, we all packed in the car to go for a drive in the mountains. Of course, all Jackson could talk about was our date. I’m smitten because he has yet to discover that it isn’t cool to hang out so affectionately with mom. We still hold hands when we cross the street. We still snuggle and touch noses. We tell each other that we’ll be best buddies forever.

When I suggested that we dress up for our date, his quick response was, “As what!?!”

As what… God bless him. Only Jackson would think I meant dressing up in costumes.

However, I do have a tiara…

oz

The Miller Family Christmas Tree

Rusty Griswold: Dad, this tree won’t fit in our back yard.
Clark: It’s not going in the yard, Russ. It’s going in the living room.
(courtesy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)

And so begins the chopping down of our Christmas tree.

First, a little background. We started going to Santa Land Christmas Tree Farm in 2005, when Jeremy was a toddler.

Santa Land 2005With a new addition to the family, we went back to Santa Land in 2006…

Santa Land 2006…and again in 2007.

Santa Land 2007Right before we moved to Texas in December 2008, we went to Santa Land and chopped down a tree to take with us.

Santa Land 2008We strapped it to the hood of the car being pulled by the moving truck. It lasted through an ice storm. Yes, it looked like a dead body.

Taking the 2008 tree to TexasIn 2009 we purchased a tree from a grocery store parking lot because there aren’t any Christmas tree farms in West Texas that we knew of. By 2010, we knew we were moving back to Tennessee, so all of our Christmas decorations were put in storage. When our house had not sold by December, I spent several weeks on do-it-yourself decorations in lieu of a Christmas tree. (Examples here, here, and here. Also here, here, and here.)

Last year, for our first Christmas back in Tennessee, we visited a local farm and went back to cutting down our own tree. It was a lovely tree, but we ended up wishing we’d just driven down to Santa Land.

So that’s what we did on our way back from Atlanta on Sunday.

Santa LandThis photo was not cropped at the top. The tree really is taller than the camera’s field of vision.

The Miller TreeIt hung a good three feet off the back of our car.

Ten feet

I cannot blame my husband entirely. That would be misleading. However, I will say that Clark, I mean, Chuck was very keen on getting a tall tree to suit his very tall den. The only problem is that even with a six-foot ladder I cannot reach the top. (Never mind the fact that I ran out of lights!) And my Christmas tree topper, that tiny Old St. Nicholas directly behind Jeremy’s head, is too small to fit the top branch.

Clark's tree

The good news is that I trust Salem will continue to steadily watch the tree on the off chance we’ve brought home a squirrel.

Big Bang

Chuck and I are about five years late on this one but we’ve jumped in with both feet. Dang it, Big Bang Theory is so freaking funny! What subatomic particle have we been living under?

Anyhoo, we are always on the hunt for a good TV show that we both enjoy. [Emphasis on the good and both.] I tend to carry on with seasons of television on my own when he’s otherwise occupied, so Chuck has not been a part of my affection for shows like Big Love, The Tudors, and more recently, Damages. But if there’s a rerun marathon of Big Bang Theory on TV at night, we’re more than likely watching it.

Can I just say how important it is to laugh with your sweetheart? It’s one of the things we do best.

While tooling around on Vimeo, I found this super-quick video with the lyrics to the Big Bang theme song. Thank goodness, because all I ever get out of it is “we built the pyramids” and the rest is a tongue-tied mess.

Enjoy!

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/5415092 w=700&h=393]

my.motion typography of The Big Bang Theory from tryBiG on Vimeo.

 

Avengers Movie Night

We usually reserve movie nights for the weekend, but when The Avengers movie is delivered to your doorstep on a Tuesday, waiting for a Friday is near impossible. (We love The Avengers, as you can see here, here and here.)

What you can’t see in this photo is all of Jackson’s Mini Muggs underneath the blanket. He acted out several scenes with them, which was pretty much the most adorable thing I’ve seen in a while. I’m savoring every moment of his imaginative childhood because it will fade away much too soon.

Mike Isabella’s Graffiato

When you care about food as deeply as we do, deciding what restaurant to patron is a well thought out plan on Girls Weekend. It’s even more important when you visit a city (like Washington DC) that is saturated with celebrity restaurants. In this case, we chose a Top Chef celebrity restaurant: Graffiato by Top Chef All-Stars runner-up Mike Isabella.

In a word, OMG. I’m just going to dump all of the photos on the page and let you drool. There are roasted pistachios, skirt steak with potatoes, corn-stuffed ravioli, pizza with proscuitto and the most perfect double chocolate gelato there ever was ever in the whole wide world.

And then there are three very happy friends who waited all night long to see Mike Isabella waltz out of the kitchen to greet us, but he never showed up. Oh well!

Follett Killers Mumford Marvel

September is going to be a very good month, and not just because Jeremy turns nine. (Nine!)

First, Winter of the World – Ken Follett (about whom you’ve heard me babble for a while now) is releasing his second novel in the Century Trilogy on September 18. It’ll be another 900-something page book that will have me in a trance for two weeks as I scurry to complete it. Like everything else he writes, I anticipate it becoming a favorite.

Then, The Killers release Battle Born on the 24th. Their first single is already available online and it has a classic Killers sound. That’s a good sign. In fact, I’m singing along to it right now.

Finally, September 25 will be doubly wonderful because The Avengers comes out on DVD (family movie night!) and Mumford and Sons releases Babel. I never, ever tire of Mumford. Ever.

All of this book-movie-music goodness makes me giddy. I could dance a jig right now in my jammies, I’m so excited.

To top it off, football season will be underway in a week, and we’re all pretty darn excited about that. Look how cute this boy is in a Smokey toboggan. I see a Christmas gift in this photo.

The Superhumans

We are in full Olympic mode here at the Miller house. I L-O-V-E the Olympics. I may not know the rules to Water Polo, but dang it – I’m watching it and rooting for the Americans!

Jeremy has been my couch buddy from the beginning and has told me several times that he’d like to try archery, fencing, gymnastics, fill-in-the-blank. Don’t I wish! We keep up with medal count and schedules and whether or not Michael Phelps is going to make a splash this week. We sit with our jaws dropped at all of this amazing talent. It’s been so fun for us to have something we enjoy together.

We’ve also talked a bit about the Paralympics, which start at the end of August. I’m not sure how much will be televised, but we’ll be tuned in to those as well. This video has circled the internet and wanted to share it with you. It’s so well done. Olympians are extraordinary, but this group is superhuman.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/46021828]

I heart Mad Men

So we jumped on the bandwagon a couple of months ago and started watching Mad Men.  At first I wasn’t sure I could swing it, especially at the end of the first episode and you realize Don Draper isn’t exactly who you thought he was. Still, we carried on with each episode appreciating the clever humor, outstanding set and costume design and the uniqueness of the story.

I must say that every time I hear a man call a woman “Sweetheart” I want to punch him in the mouth. In fact, like a pendulum, I go back and forth between wanting Don Draper to succeed to wishing he’d get a swift kick in the pants (in the front of his pants, to be exact). Nearly every episode leaves me feeling schizophrenic, either loving the characters like they were real or thinking they’ve all lost their minds.

Except for Peggy. I adore Peggy.

Anyway, you can’t watch the show without being influenced by its composition. For the first three seasons I think I oohed and awed over Betty Draper’s entire closet. (Chuck was busy eyeballing the decanter sets.) Last night, I lost time on AMC’s website, specifically on the Mad Men Yourself page, creating my Sterling Cooper avatar.

Yes, I know how nerdy that sounds.

We’re finally on to Season 5, so no spoilers please.

They’ve waited all week for this.

We walked into the theater, and upon approaching the counter the young man behind the register gives me two raised eyebrows, as if to ask what movie we’d like to see. I step aside, gesture to my mini-Avengers, and say, “Take a wild guess.”

He smiles and rings us up for three tickets. They absolutely loved every single second.

Happy Weekend from the proud mother of Ironman and Captain America.

The Happiness Hotel

Last night, after finishing our schoolwork around 6:30 p.m. (we got a late start), the boys and I curled up for a movie. (Not Star Wars, I pleaded. I’ll watch anything but Star Wars.) The boys happily agreed to watch one of my favorite childhood flicks – The Great Muppet Caper. Thank goodness Jason Segel decided to bring The Muppets back to life last year, because otherwise my boys might not have appreciated them as much as they should.

Anyway, I spent the first 15 minutes of the movie reciting lines and laughing so garishly, but it was my fine rendition of The Happiness Hotel song that made Jeremy finally turn around and politely say, “Mom, I can’t hear the movie.”

Oh, sorry.

I giggled and sang the rest of the movie to myself while the boys enjoyed every minute of it. By the end, Jackson had begun asking me (for the umpteenth time) for Muppets stuffed animals. My response has typically been “We’ll see,” or “Maybe for your birthday.” But it occurred to me that I might still have my old Kermit tucked away in my box of childhood mementos.

Sure enough, he was there.

It looks like Kermit has grown fur over the last 25 years.

Anyway, I’d be remiss if I didn’t show you my mother’s old space-saving idea for our toys when we lived in a smallish townhouse on an Army base in Virginia.

I don’t know exactly when she pulled this off, but I remember all of a sudden noticing that while I was at school/asleep/playing outside/not paying attention my stuffed animals had been strung up with yarn and plastic white rings. All of them. I’ve since been told that she was trying to be creative with space and hanging our animals from the ceiling (or wherever) was her best idea.

Jeremy was confused by this concept and remarked to me, “Well, Grandma always thinks she’s being clever.”

It’s no matter now, of course. In fact, it helps me to recognize my own stuffed animals among the boys’ things. Hey! There’s my old Winnie the Pooh with the ring in his head!