Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Scattered Thoughts for a Stars Hollow-day

It's late November, so naturally it's time to think about family, Thanksgiving, the inevitable Christmas shopping, and of course, the return of Gilmore Girls.

I'm quick to tell anyone who will listen that I have four all-time favorite television shows, and I absolutely love them all. But there's only one show that I fall asleep to each and every single night, and that's Gilmore Girls. I'm somewhat of a Gilmore historian now, with more trivia and facts about the show packed into my brain than you might believe. I own two books about the show, I used to frequent online message boards about the show, and I'm currently an avid listener of the Gilmore Guys podcast.

Hi, I'm Valerie, and I'm a Gilmore Girls addict.

And yet.

And yet, I am a bit wary of this Friday's release of four new 90-minute episodes. Yes, Amy Sherman-Palladino is back.* But remember: Amy was still involved with season six, a series of episodes that saw Rory and Lorelai be separated for "five months, three weeks, and sixteen days,"** the introduction of fan-favorite April Nardini (j/k everyone hates her), the introduction of dog Paul Anka (Who honestly believes Lorelai is a dog person? To quote season one Lorelai: "That's it! We are not animal people! Period."), the introduction of doormat Lorelai (the Lorelai of seasons past would have spoken up and voiced her opinions to Luke long before things built to an ultimatum), and an increasingly insufferable Rory (I could write an entire additional blog entry about the inappropriate way she badgers her way into a job in The Prodigal Daughter Returns.)

All that to say, if Gilmore Girls Colon A Year In The Life feels more like season six than the show's heyday (aka everything that came before season six), I will be a bit disappointed.

But. I'm still really excited, and can't wait to check back in on Stars Hollow and my favorite characters.

Incidentally, here are my favorite characters:

5. Brad Langford
4. Jess Mariano
3. Brian Fuller
2. Dave Rygalski
1. Lorelai Gilmore

Gilmore Girls has always been a warm fuzzy blanket to pull around my shoulders. It has always been more than the base-level question of which of Rory's boyfriends she should end up with. It's a honey-colored hug, and a visit to a familiar, hilarious, quick-witted place we ALL wish existed in real life. I love the character of Lorelai so, so much. Positive, clever, caring, independent, capable, sparkling, and smart-- so much to aspire to.

The show is obviously well-known for the speed and wit of its dialogue. But I think some of its funniest moments are actually non-verbal, or at least only funny because of the way the actor performs it. Here's a not-so-comprehensive list:

  • Teach Me Tonight - Lorelai tries a brownie to which Luke accidentally added too much chocolate. Lorelai tries a bite, looks like she's going to spit it out, then considers and says, "Mm, that's good!" The way Lauren Graham performs this line has always cracked. Me. Up.
  • Bridesmaids Revisited - Rory, heartbroken over Logan being the worst, goes to a bar and gets drunk. A waitress clearing dishes picks up Rory's beverage napkin. This incenses a tipsy Rory, who immediately starts berating the waitress. "Don't take what's mine. These came with MY drinks." She ends it with the kicker, "Sick of people touching my STUFF!" I realize this is not at all funny on paper, but the line reading Alexis Bledel gives it is absolutely hysterical.
  • They Shoot Gilmores, Don't They? - Jackson is upset about Sookie and Lorelai discussing his and Sookie's personal life. He yells, "My child-bearing arrangements are between me and Sookie!" Then Luke interjects, "And the Lord." Scott Patterson's deadpan here is pure gold.
  • Keg! Max! - Brian's freaking out before the band's first-ever gig. Zach hears that it's heartburn and insists, "I told you, dude, it's your citrus intake. Stop eating oranges." What high school-aged guy says this to another guy? Hilarious.
  •  Let Me Hear Your Balilaikas Ringing Out - Luke has unknowingly become the sponsor for a soccer team full of violence-obsessed girls. After a winning game, one cherubic-looking player gleefully announces, "She went one way and her knee went the other!" Then all the girls cheer.
  • The Third Lorelai -Tristan is incredulous at the fact that Rory would suggest he date Paris. Please re-watch the way Chad Michael Murray says, "Are you serious?" It KILLS me!
  • Say Goodnight, Gracie - It's the morning after the disastrous party at Kyle's house. Lorelai learns that Rory was the cause of an enormous fight that broke out and says, "So not only did you go to a cop-raided party but you started the raid?
    Rory: Yes.
    Lorelai: This fence is broken because of you, this crap is on the ground because of you.
    Rory: What's your point?
  And then, immediately, this:

And now, two slightly controversial opinions.

  1. Jason Stiles was a great boyfriend. He came the closest to matching Lorelai's wit and pace of dialogue ("Take a poll! No one in this room has any idea what this crazy old man is talking about!"), and he really cared about her. Plus he was way more FUN (and Lorelai is all about having fun!) than Max, Alex, Christopher, or Luke. Let's go.
  2. April Nardini is not the worst character on the show. That honor belongs to her mother Anna: an unreasonable, spiteful, and joyless human being. Stay in New Mexico forever, Nardini!
Finally, I'm not above acknowledging one of Gilmore's biggest weaknesses: continuity. Specifically, its utter lack of any type of understanding of time/anything that's happened in the past. How long did Lorelai live at her parents with Rory before she moved to Stars Hollow? How long has Luke actually known the girls? Don't think about these questions too hard! However, the most egregious offense to me is an off-hand exchange between Rory and Jess in A Deep-Fried Korean Thanksgiving. 

Jess: It's not the first time a couple’s broken up.
Rory: It is for us.

Uh... in what universe is this the first time Rory and Dean broke up? Apparently the writers temporarily forgot that they were broken up for like five episodes in season one. And two of those episodes were ALL ABOUT the break-up! Literally! There was an episode called The Break-Up Part 2! And Dean and Rory even discuss that storyline in season two! ("Breaking up, not for us.") And I know what you're thinking. 'Val. You're obsessing over a reference made by two fictional characters from an episode of a television show that aired 14 years ago. Get over it.'

Well, that's something that's just between me and the Gilmore Girls.

And the Lord.
*Sherman-Palladino, the creator and voice of the show, famously left after season six. Season seven was produced without her, and it's pretty universally agreed-upon that this season is a bit sub-par. (Jason Mantzoukas: "I felt like I was watching a show that I love be haunted.")

**What a weird way to say that amount of time. Would this not actually be six months, one week, and two days? I mean, far be it from me to correct Lorelai, but... what??

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Lin-Manuel Shouldn't Win The Tony

Scattered thoughts on the Tony Awards slash the current Broadway season. Way more than you want to read, but you should anyway. Because reasons. Let's go!!!!

  • Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of my favorite people. "Hamilton" is the best piece of theater I've ever seen in my life, hands down. He should win every single creative Tony award he's up for, from score to book and everything in between. He's created an AMAZING piece of art, and what he's done deserves all the acclaim it's received.

    BUT. I don't think he should win the Tony for Best Actor. He's bested in this category by Leslie Odom Jr., who consistently stops the show as Hamilton's foil, Aaron Burr. Odom's voice is out of this world, and he's just a very skilled performer. Lin would be the first person to tell you that his voice is not as strong as some of his co-stars, and I just don't think he deserves to win in this category. But he will, because the Tony voters can't not give it to him. I mean, he wrote the thing! They'll probably check his name every time his name comes up on the ballot. And every other time, he totally deserves it. But in the Lead Actor in a Musical category? Lin-Manuel shouldn't win the Tony.

  • It's no secret that I'm a big fan of "Hamilton." I love that so many people who wouldn't normally be musical fans are head over heels for a Broadway show. I just hope that the audience "Hamilton" brings to the Tonys on Sunday night will take note of the many other wonderful productions currently on Broadway! "Hamilton" is being hailed as a gateway to Broadway. I just hope people will actually walk through it!

  • The person I'm rooting for the MOST? Daveed Diggs. I want him to win more than I've wanted any one person or show to win a Tony since I was pulling for "Newsies" back in aught twelve.(Gives the side-eye to "Once.") Anyway, Daveed is an incredibly magnetic performer. This is his FIRST theater experience (not just Broadway), and he NAILS IT. He's hilarious, he raps faster than anyone else (he spits 19 words in three seconds), and he masterfully takes on two incredibly disparate characters: Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. I could watch him perform all day!

    Also it doesn't hurt that he is super attractive.

  • Did you know that Danny Burstein, up for the same award as Manuel and Odom, has been nominated for a Tony a total of FIVE times now? And he's never won. Any other year and his acclaimed role of Tevye in "Fiddler on the Roof" would probably be awarded with the spinning trophy. Too bad "Fiddler" had the unfortunate timing to open in the same season as "Hamilton." He'll soon be in the company of Broadway soprano Kelli O'Hara, who was nominated five times before her sixth time out finally netted her the long-deserved award. Let's just hope Burstein also strikes gold in his next role!

  • Laura Benanti won't win, but that's okay. She's already won once before, and she's definitely won the heart of the internet, with brilliant and HILARIOUS videos like this and this being consistently released! 

  • You know who might win in her category? Not the "Hamilton" actor, shockingly enough. But I really think Cynthia Erivo might win this one! She's supposed to be phenomenal in "The Color Purple."

  • Alex Brightman is super fun to follow on social media. He just seems like a really cool person! It's no wonder he's been getting rave reviews for his role in "School of Rock." (Also: Dude runs the equivalent of 3.5 miles EVERY SHOW! Whaaaaaaat!) This isn't his year to win, but I'm hopeful that he'll take home the big prize another year!

  • "Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed," you guys. This same I've got to experience this show, I need to know what everyone is talking about feeling I have about it is exactly how I felt about "Hamilton" a year ago. (Fun fact: "Shuffle Along" producers submitted the show to the Tony committee as a revival, since it's based on a 1920's show of a similar name, in order to get out of the way of "Hamilton." No such luck -- the show was ruled an original musical.)

  • Audra McDonald, Billy Porter, and Brian Stokes Mitchell ALL IN ONE MUSICAL ("Shuffle Along"). It's almost too much for me!!! I mean, Audra is the QUEEN and it would thrill my heart to no end to get to see her in this.  Billy Porter gave one of my most favorite Tony acceptance speeches of all time, and it never fails to make me tear up! And Brian Stokes Mitchell's voice pours out of him and just makes your heart soar. Between Sarah Brown Eyes and This Nearly Was Mine, this man is just the ultimate Broadway singer.

  • Savion Glover, of "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk" (and Sesame Street!) fame, choreographed "Shuffle Along," is going up against Andy Blankenbuehler, whom I love. This will be a tough category.

  • I love Megan Hilty. I hope she wins. 

  • "Waitress" seems like a magical musical. It certainly has a magical cast album! Check it out if you've not had a chance to listen to it yet. It has some beautiful (and funny!) songs composed by Sara Bareilles.

  • RIP but props to "Tuck Everlasting," "American Psycho," and "Dames at Sea," who have already closed their doors after short runs, but still received at least one Tony nomination! You go, Glen Coco.
Here I am with all of my Tony-nominated pals at the top of the Empire State Building yesterday! Wow, what a crew. Thanks again, guys! I'm so glad we're all best friends forever!

The Tony Awards will air Sunday at 7 on CBS. Don't miss it!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

9th Annual Oscar Picks

I can feel it, people! This is my year! I'm about to correctly predict TWENTY-FOUR Academy Award categories. A thing that will totally, TOTALLY happen, because I've never been wrong before ever.*

(Previously: 201520142013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008.)

Best Picture: I've not had such a difficult time picking the Best Picture winner since... well, since last year. And I was wrong last year. But who's keeping track (nervous laugh)? Anyway, with apologies to all of the other nominees, I think this race comes down to "The Big Short," "Spotlight," and "The Revenant." But despite the critical love for "The Big Short," I just don't think this one is remarkable enough to take the top prize. That leaves "The Revenant" and "Spotlight," which is truly one of the best movies I've ever seen. If I was voting, Michael Keaton and his team would get to go up on stage to accept the award. Unfortunately, I think the tide has turned, and the votes are going to come down in favor of "The Revenant." Good job, Alejandro. Good job, Leo. Good job, bear.

Best Director: Speaking of Alejandro: Congratulations, Alejandro Innaritu! You are about to become only the third director ever to win back-to-back Oscars for Best Director! Sorry, George Miller. Better luck in another 30 years!

Best Actor: Okay, yes. After four fruitless nominations, this fifth should stick, as it is finally, FINALLY Leonardo DiCaprio's year. And we're all very happy for him. (Particularly Kate Winslet, which makes me tear up every time I think about their sweet friendship.) But if we're not careful, Matt Damon could soon be in the same boat: come Sunday he will have lost three times! So. Fair warning, Academy voters, of which doubtless scores of you are reading this. Don't let what happened to Leo happen to Matt! Anyway, the question now is this: is Leo winning because this is truly the greatest performance of the year? Or because OH JUST GIVE HIM ONE ALREADY, HE ATE A DEER CARCASS (or whatever it was)? Spoiler alert: it's probably the latter.

Best Actress: All things being equal, and every Oscar year being a clean slate, Cate Blanchett might actually be in the running for this award. But all things are NOT equal, and the Academy has a very good memory for anyone they've honored recently. And unfortunately for Cate, she's just won too recently to have a fighting chance this year (the same fate that's befallen Eddie Redmayne). All of this to say: Brie Larson will be the one to win. An Oscar for you, Brie Larson! You go, Brie Larson! (And none for Gretchen Weiners, bye!)

Best Supporting Actor: Sylvestor Stallone all but has this one in the bag. If somehow it doesn't go his way, though, look for one of the Marks (Ruffalo or Rylance) to steal it away.

Best Supporting Actress: Kate or Alicia? Alicia or Kate? As much as we'd all love to see a "Leo/Kate with their Oscars" photo op, I think Alicia Vikander is going to win. (Although let's be honest: she already won big when she starred in one of the best films of 2015, "The Man from Uncle," amiright?)

Animated Feature: I don't believe there's a universe where "Inside Out" doesn't win. But if something strange happens with time and space and Pixar DOESN'T scoop up this award, I suppose "Anomalisa" could possibly upset.

Production Design: I think this one probably comes down to "Mad Max: Fury Road" or "The Revenant," not that I believe "The Martian" is any less deserving. In the end, however, my money is on "Mad Max."

Cinematography: "The Revenant" being shot all in natural light makes a pretty good case for it to win for Best Cinematography (along with, I'm sure, plenty of other... technical... cinematographical... reasons). Interesting side fact: this will be Emmanuel Lubezki's third straight win in this category!

Costume Design: One of my favorite things about "Cinderella" was the glorious, gorgeous costumesparticularly those worn by Cate Blanchett's character. However, it's facing stiff competition from both "Mad Max" and "Carol." At the end of the day, I think we'll be seeing a win for the innovative designs of "Mad Max."

Film Editing: Conventional wisdom would have me pick the Best Picture to win in this category as well. But with the Best Picture category so up in the air this year, conventional wisdom is in shambles. Look for "Mad Max" to pick up yet another award here.

Makeup and Hairstyling: Tra la la, "Mad Max" again. Sigh.

Original Score: Man, wouldn't it be great to see John Williams win for "Star Wars: The Force Awakens"? (Would that make Lin-Manuel Miranda a winner by extension?) Too bad, though. Ennio Morricone will be winning for "The Hateful Eight." (Likely that film's only award of the evening.)

Original Song: 2016 is off to quite a start for Lady Gaga! First she won a Golden Globe for her work in "American Horror Story," and as of Sunday night she'll also be an Oscar winner for her song from the movie "The Hunting Ground."

Original Screenplay: Oh, I hope I hope I HOPE that "Spotlight" wins this one!

Adapted Screenplay: To me, this field seems wide open; any of these movies could win! And while it would be so wonderful to see the lovely "Brooklyn" scoop this one up, I think it's going to "The Big Short."

Sound Mixing: Honestly? I have no idea. Probably either "The Revenant" or "Mad Max"? I guess? Sure, "Mad Max." HAVE ANOTHER.

Sound Editing: See above. "Mad Max."

Visual Effects: "The Revenant's" bear. "Star Wars'"... battles and aliens. "Mad Max's"... mad... people. This one could go to any of those three. And at first I was going to pick "Mad Max" AGAIN, but the more I think about it, the more I think that this is the one category that "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" could reign supreme.

Documentary Feature: Once in love with "Amy," always in love with Amy!

Documentary Short: Dang. These categories could not be more difficult to predict, and I won't pretend to have ever heard of these films! It's a total crapshoot, and crap... I'm going with "A Girl in the River."

Foreign Language Film: Some years you hear buzz about some of the Foreign Language Films, but this year? I've never heard of any of these titles. Whoops. Well, apparently Academy voters were pretty enamoured of "Son of Saul," so I'd imagine that's the big winner!

Animated Short: I recently watched "World of Tomorrow" on Netflix, and it was so incredibly creative and inventive and strange and sad and intriguing and... I'm out of adjectives. But it really was fascinating (oh, there's another one!), and-- who knows?-- voters might be up for picking something a little different! If not, though, they'll probably instead throw their support behind a safer bet: Pixar's "Sanjay's Super Team."

Live Action Short: Frankly, my dear... I have no idea. But the Academy seems to like to pick more serious fair, so with a short about war on the list, I think I'll go with "Shok."

*Oh, what's that, Bob? I'm wrong all the time? Got it!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 Favorites

My Three Favorite Books of 2015

3. Mr. Kiss and Tell, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Rob Thomas is a master at spinning clever and compelling mysteries, and his second Veronica Mars novel is no exception. Despite the fact that I liked this one a bit less than the first, Mr. Kiss and Tell still captivated me and kept me guessing. The authors have done a remarkable job transplanting the jaded, film noir quality of the show from the screen to the page, and I was so engrossed listening to the story that at times it was as if I'd been watching Kristen Bell herself. Veronica is a fascinating narrator, and the balance between the case she's working and the tumult of her personal life makes for a very compelling book.

“Not that I like having my direst preconceptions about humanity confirmed or anything. But I was right.”

2. For the Right Reasons: America's Favorite Bachelor on Faith, Love, Marriage, and Why Nice Guys Finish First, Sean Lowe
There's never been any shame in my love of The Bachelor, so it should come as no surprise that I immensely enjoyed Sean Lowe's first foray into writing, For the Right Reasons. This was just an incredibly fun, engrossing, and informative book, detailing Sean's personal background as well as his time on The Bachelorette and The Bachelor. I ate up every detail about both shows, how he and Catherine fell in love, and most importantly, how they wove the Gospel into their wedding knowing it would be televised to millions of people.

"Soon, word spread that I had daily devotionals, and guys started showing up. I really liked the guys, and being in such a strange situation bonded us together. Even though most of our time was spent lounging around waiting for datesor recovering from themthe mornings were dedicated to our little devotionals. Without ever meaning to, I found myself leading this Bible study on the set of The Bachelorette."

1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Agatha Christie
I adore Agatha Christie, and I have a particular fondness for her highly intelligent character Hercule Poirot. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd did not disappoint, and Poirot is still my favorite little Belgian detective. To say much of anything about the plot of this book will be to say too much, because half of the fun is the dawning realization of what Christie has pulled off (its ending was virtually the first of its kind when this book debuted in 1926). The Murder of Roger Ackroyd ranks quite high on many lists of best mysteries, and while it's not my favorite Agatha Christie novel of all time, it was still a very engrossing read.

“It is completely unimportant. That is why it is so interesting.”

Honorable Mention:
Paper Towns, John Green
As If: The Oral History of Clueless as told by Amy Heckerling and the Cast and Crew, Jen Chaney
A Murder is Announced, Agatha Christie
Evil Under the Sun, Agatha Christie

Thumbs Down:
Dante's Inferno. Alright, I'll say it: I enjoy Dan Brown novels (particularly Deception Point). But this one was doo doo.

Also, there are two main reasons that I read fewer books than usual this year, and their names are Kevin and Demi. Once I discovered the Gilmore Guys podcast, my usual audio book listening took a serious nose dive. So instead of listening to literary classics (like my number two favorite), I was listening to segments like Pop Goes the Culture and Where You Tweet I Will Follow.

(It was awesome.)

My Three Favorite Movies of 2015

3. Brooklyn
I was so surprised by this sweet and unexpected little movie. The story of Eilis and her immigration to America from Ireland was in turn heartbreaking, suspenseful, and ultimately hopeful. And "pleasant" sounds like such a boring, vanilla word to describe a movie you loved, but it fits this one so well. So if you're looking for a nice, pleasant movie, be sure to check out the effervescent Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.

2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
I stayed away from most trailers, articles, and reviews of The Force Awakens before I saw it, and I'm so glad I did! Going in dark, not knowing any theories or opinions ahead of time, helped me manage my expectations and end up being so thrilled with the entire experience. I thought the characters were so well-drawn, and I loved that Rey and Finn were played by virtual newcomers so that we could really focus on the characters and the story. The music was fantastic, the practical effects were outstanding, I laughed a ton, and the whole thing was FUN but still packed an emotional punch. Plus, I think I have a crush on Adam Driver now? Maybe. Is that weird?

1. The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Every time I tell someone that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was my favorite movie of the year, I get a blank stare, and usually a puzzled, "Wait, what's it called again?" It's a shame that most people seem to have missed this one, because it's just SO. MUCH. FUN. Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer are an incredibly entertaining pair (not to mention easy on the eyes), and the entire movie is a sleek and playful ride from beginning to end. The 1960's wardrobe, music, and technology are truly immersive and make for a super fun atmosphere. I could watch this one again and again (and now I can, since I got it for Christmas!), and I find myself quoting it more than I ever thought I would ("He's trying. To stop. The car."). Plus I had the hardest time not using the word "fun" about five dozen more times in this paragraph than I did. Don't miss this one!

Honorable Mention: The Duff (both Jimmy Fallon and I loved this movie, so you can trust the pair of us), The Martian, and Aloha (I know it wasn't popular but I just liked it!)

My Three Favorite TV Shows of 2015

Favorite shows I started watching this year:

3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
I think I may have been the very last person to discover the brilliance of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. But just in case there's anyone out there reading this who hasn't yet seen it: you've got to check this show out. Andy Samberg, Andre Braugher, Chelsea Peretti and the rest of the police precinct make for a hilarious team. One of the things I love most, however, is that it's not just joke-joke-joke-joke (although it IS just about the only show to make me laugh out loud on a regular basis), but all of the detectives are actually incredibly capable officers, and it's just awesome to see Jake, Amy, and the rest take down bad guys again and again.

 2. iZombie
Another title met with blank stares almost every time I mention it! I'm so glad I finally sat down and caught up with Rob Thomas' newest show, one I've wanted to watch ever since it debuted on The CW last year. A high-concept cousin to Veronica Mars, iZombie is a brilliant mash-up of a simple case-of-the-week mystery with a dash of the undead: our protagonist Liv Moore is a zombie. As an assistant medical examiner, each episode finds her eating the brains of a murder victim and using the visions those ingested brains provide her to help solve the mystery of their death. I hope that sounds more intriguing than confusing, because it really is a supremely enjoyable hour of television. Come for the clever story-telling, stay for Rahul Kohli's charming, incredibly endearing forensic pathologist Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti.

1. Awkward.
This is the first show in quite a while that I've been so invested in that I had to watch the next episode right away. Next episode. Next episode. Next episode. This show makes me feel like I'm a teenager again, reliving high school and completely engrossed in the world of Jenna and Matty, the guy that makes my inner 15-year-old blush. But that's not the only reason I love it. It's incredibly clever and witty with words like flirtationship and carefrontation, Tamara's "slanguage" deserves its own blog entry. The characters are all so well-developed and endearing (by the end even "Darth Hater" Sadie had carved herself a spot in my heart), the story lines are always unpredictable, and it just feels DIFFERENT. It's incredibly original, and doesn't feel like any other show I've watched. I can't tell you if YOU would personally like it after all, it is an MTV show, and all that comes along with that. If you're not a teenage girl... or me... this one might not be for you. BUT if a hilarious and heartfelt teen dramedy with whip-smart dialogue sounds appealing to you, definitely check this one out!

Honorable Mention: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Great British Baking Show

My Three Favorite Events of 2015

3. Family Birthday Bash in Galveston
There's nothing in the world more fun to me than to have all seven (soon to be eight! #cimibaby) members of my family all together in one place. Add in an amusement park, daily trips to the beach, games, and MY BIRTHDAY, and you've got the makings of an amazing dream vacation. It was pure bliss, and I wish I could relive it again and again.

2. Sweet, Sweet Adoptions
2015 saw the addition of three precious babies into their forever families. I've watched the long, long road the Nicholses and Redfearns have had to travel down to bring their children home, and it's been frustrating at times to witness just how long this entire process can take. But now that we're on the other side, it's such a thrill to get to see the joy that Adelay, Micah, and Cade bring their respective families. Welcome home, kiddos. You are SO loved.

1. Broadway Baby
I feel like I need to pinch myself when I look back and realize that in one year I got to see:
  1. My all-time FAVORITE musical not once, not twice, but THREE times.
  2. My beloved "Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" with its original, Tony-nominated stars one last time before it closes later this month.
    (2b: Bryce Pinkham Skyping my roommate's fifth grade classroom out of the kindness of his heart! From his dressing room on Broadway! And I got to witness it all. Still pinching myself.) 
  3. The greatest musical I've ever seen on stage: "Hamilton." Five months later and I still have no words for what I saw.


And because I'm a fool for Twitter, I also got super excited when my tweets were favorited liked by Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn, former Jack Kelly Corey Cott, Hamilton actors Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr., Gentleman's Guide star Bryce Pinkham, Veronica Mars and iZombie show runner Rob Thomas, Hamilton composer/conductor Alex Lacamoire, author Tim Federle, and Newsie Chaz Wolcott.

Party. Rock.