Gavin & Stacey: The Nostalgia Trip to the Late 2000s You Never Knew You Needed

Let’s face it, you’ve been consumed by Game of Thrones for the past five weeks, to say nothing of the ten years you’ve dedicated to the series. Regardless of your feeling towards last night’s episode, you’ve be left with some new found free time. But what are you going to do with that dragon shaped hole in your schedule? You could go for a walk, find a new hobby or finally master that whole meditation thing, but why leave the couch? Why not let the metaphorical palate cleanser come to you? And may I suggest Gavin & Stacey. It is light. It is fun. It is exactly what you need.

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The year is 2007. After weeks of long-distance flirting, Stacey West of Barry Island, Wales and Gavin Shipman of Essex decide it’s time to finally meet face-to-face. The show follows the ups and downs of Gavin and Stacey’s young relationship, but it is their quirky but lovable, and intensely loyal, families and friends who steal the show. Gavin & Stacey is firmly rooted in the late 2000s and feels simpler and nostalgically homey with its flip phones, neon tops and tracksuits. For the American viewer, the heavy Welsh accents may be off-putting at first but you’ll soon grow to love it. Characters like Stacey’s excitable uncle, Bryn and her hard-living friend, Nessa will endear themselves to you. Nessa, played by Ruth Jones, who co-wrote the series with James Cordon is particularly memorable. Likely intended as a foil for Stacey, who exists somewhere along the manic pixie dream girl spectrum, Nessa is deeper. Behind her intimidating black bob, goth clothing, and Welsh dragon tattoo, there is warmth and devotion.

The rhythm of Gavin & Stacey puts the show on par with many of the best sitcoms. There’s a cozy predicability to each episode and it’s a testament to Ruth Jones and James Cordon’s skills as writers that they’ve been able to craft such a tight, character driven comedy. One of the brilliant ways they do this by giving each character his or her own vocabulary. Nessa draws you in with her perfectly delivered greeting, “what’s occurring” and dryly delivered life stories about her rock and roll past. The Essex bunch of Gavin, his best friend Smithy, and Gavin’s parents do the robot when they great each other. Simple moments, like these make you believe you’re watching a group of people who have known each other for twenty years.

Among a cast of brilliantly written and performed characters the American viewer will recognize a few familiar faces. James Cordon of Car Pool Karaoke fame plays Smithy, Gavin’s best friend, and co-wrote the show. You may recognize lead actress, Joanna Page from her role on Love Actually, or Julia Davis, who places Gavin’s family friend Dawn Sutcliffe, and who’s recent show Sally4Ever has been picked up by HBO.

If you’re in the mood to relax with a comedy that will deliver on laughs, Gavin & Stacey is a great choice. These days, every show seems to have an element of suspense, which can grow tiresome. Gavin & Stacey is exceptionally easy to watch and it’s refreshing to watch a show about a family, in which the disfunction is benignly comically, the stakes are manageable and no one dies. The thirty minute episodes are available on Amazon Prime and easily bingable.

New Podcast ... Who Dis?

 
Image from Youtube

Image from Youtube

When I moved to Chicago it took me a long time to put together a new routine. For one, my commute shrunk by 3/4ths. Getting home before 5:30 pm felt like I was winning some kind of free time lottery. I do not miss my hours in the car, but after a few weeks I began to miss my trusty, traffic jam companion: podcasts.

Back in Virginia, my evening commute frequently topped out at an hour and a half, which gave my plenty of time to catch up on my stories. I loved listening to Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me (can’t wait to see the live show in Chicago!), The High Low, and My Favorite Murder (if you live alone and listen to this you’re braver than me). I miss punctuating my day with a these voices and I’ve slowly started to incorporate them into my new life.

Image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/37pR8YxRMhVwwZvX93r0RZm/in-our-time-downloads

Image from http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/37pR8YxRMhVwwZvX93r0RZm/in-our-time-downloads

Recently, I was introduced to In Our Time: History. The twenty year old BBC radio show hosted by broadcaster, author and parliamentarian, Melvyn Bragg dives into key historical themes, events, and individuals with a panel of experts. The episode that first caught my attention was the November 8th episode on Marie Antoinette. I was hooked! I’ve already devoured the episodes on Mary Queen of Scotts and Margaret of Anjou. I appreciate that the program assumes a general understanding of the topic at hand so that the experts can get straight to the core of the topic and provide listeners with a deeper knowledge and a fresh perspective.

The most fascinating part was the panelist’s explanation for circumstances which lead to Marie Antoinette’s poor reputation. As a native Austrian she had to compete against deep seated prejudices that had formed over centuries of conflict between France and Austria. The royal couple’s inability to consummate their marriage for seven years and the Louis XVI’s inability to take on an official mistress, a role which historically was used as a public scapegoat, opened Marie Antoinette up to an abnormally high amount of scrutiny.

While listening, I kept picturing scenes from Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. I saw that movie as a 13th birthday present on a Sunday afternoon when I was supposed to be doing homework. I fell in love with Coppola’s perfectly costumed retelling and I have been going back to that film for touches of inspiration ever since. And now I know the real story.

You can find In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 or on Apple Podcasts. Off to rewatch Marie Antoinette for the gazillionth time…au revoir!



May 10th Week in Review

What with a baby and a pink carpet, there were plenty of pop culture moments to indulge in this week:

The first Monday in May brought with it the Met Gala. More than other red carpet events, the Met Gala is a celebration of wearable art.

Public intrigue towards the Met Gala, which centers around the Costume Institute’s spring exhibit, has grown in recent years starting with the success of 2011’s Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. Show stopping attendees like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Cardi B and the Kardashian/Jenner clan have no doubt boosted public awareness of the event and the exhibition through their collective social media presence. While the Gala is closed to the public, this year’s exhibit, Camp: Notes on Fashion, will run from May 9 through September 8. Last year’s exhibition was the Met’s highest ever attended exhibition with 1,659,647 visitors. No doubt the Met Museum expects similar success this year, and with good reason. Recent exhibitions of fashion history have been met with great public interest, like the sold out Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibit at The Victoria & Albert Museum in London and the Denver Art Museum’s Dior from Paris to the World which had to extend its closing date due to high visitor interest. Fashion, long the ugly stepsister of the arts world, has recently come into its own because of growing accessibility to everyday people. At a time when museums are adapting to the Instagram Era, fashion has become another way to build buzz and get people in the door. Whether it’s haute couture or the iconic gowns of America’s First Ladies, what people wear is ingrained in our pop culture history and so, accessible in a way that many traditional art museum pieces have not been.

Fashion is serious business and last Monday’s festivities were no exception. This year’s theme was inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 Notes on “Camp” essay, which aimed to give meaning to the undefined term. The party line, as Sontag tells us, is that “the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration.” And the night did bring its share of the artificial; the exaggerated; the extra. We saw latex gloves on Lena Dunham and Jemima Kirke, gender bending costumes on Harry Styles and Ezra Miller and wacky props, like Mindy Kaling’s cleaning bottle purse and Elle Fanning’s adorable nail charms.

I also wanted to draw attention to Sinead Burke, who was the first ever little person to attend the Met Gala. Sinead is an Irish educator, advocate and a Contributing Editor at British Vogue whom I’ve admired for some time. Watch her Davos speech, Disabled people need platforms not pedestals, during which she discusses the need for diversity in the design community (14 minute, great listen!). Have a great weekend!

The Aspirational Gal’s Guide to Barely Passable Cuisine: Cookie Dough

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On today’s installment of TAGGTBPC (go on, try pronouncing it, just rolls off the tongue) we are tackling cookie dough, the holy grail of stereotypical girl food. If only we had a bottle of wine to wash it down…

Why are we making cookie dough rather than popping down to the store and buying the premade stuff? Well, maybe you’re not in a mood to shop, or maybe it’s super late, or super early, or maybe you’re on a strict “no extra groceries, especially for ice cream, chocolate and the like” budget and you are being good.

Full disclosure: this recipe is only healthy in the sense that it’s an excellent way to practice portion control. You get to decide how much cookie dough you make. This means instead of sneaking into the kitchen to steal bits of cookie dough for the next four hours you can make just enough for one episode of your current binge. Follow the directions below for two to three globs of cookie dough. Double, triple, or quadruple as needed. For best results, I suggest carrying out this recipe in your most manically gleeful state. You’re so close to a thoroughly decent version of one of the most comforting foods in the world.

This dish has a prep time of however long it takes to locate as many chocolate chip cookie ingredients as you can remember off the top of your head and a cook time of five minutes.

·        1 ½ inch slab of butter

·        1 heaping medium sized spoon full of flour

·        ½ teaspoon of brown sugar sprinkle of brown sugar

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·        A drop of vanilla extract

·        1 teaspoon almond butter as an egg substitute (I read that once and IDK how to make a vegan flax egg)

·        A sprinkle of salt

·        Chocolate chips

1. Combine ingredients (save the chocolate chips) in a bowl and beat with a fork until smooth.

2. Add chocolate chips and enjoy.

Thoughts on this recipe: I don’t have time for recipes and I get it if you don’t either. Feel free to take liberties with this recipe and make it yours.

Some variations I’ve tried: More almond butter and vanilla give the dough a richer flavor (the almond butter masks the flour taste). Whole wheat flour provides a good taste but is makes the dough gritty.

 

Let me know what you think and please share any variations you’ve come up with!

A Dollop of Dolly Parton and Other Tales

Nine to Five - Dolly Parton

For whatever reason this song has been stuck in my head all week. I listen to on my way to work, on the way home, and whenever I need a midday pick me up. I just love Dolly Parton’s charm and optimist and the lyrics are so damn catchy. If you’re in the mood to watch the iconic 1980 movie you can stream it on HBO Go/HBO Now.

 

The Pulitzer Prizes were awarded a month or so ago I'm still making my way through the winners. Right now I’m most excited about Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize winning album, DAMN and the Public Service award winning series of articles from Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the New York Times, and Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker, which exposed high profile sexual predators.

Kendrick Lamar - first hip hop awarded in this category. Some criticism which you can read here and here. For my part, I love that Pulitzer Prize Advisory Board chose Damn because the decision got me to listen to an album I would not typically play, and I really enjoyed it. Fun fact about this album, my roommate who may be the best fifth grade teacher in the world (obvious bias) plays humble for her students every day which I think is really fun and awesome.

I loved this article: This Year’s Other Two Pulitzer Finalists on Losing to Kendrick Lamar

 

Breakfast at Noon?

This weekend I visited Max in Charlottesville. We both went to undergrad at the University of Virginia and I love coming back to visit. We're not very good at getting up early so our “morning” started at noon. Neither of us are big brunch people so we tend to oscillate between the few breakfast spots that kindly keep their doors open past noon. This time we settled on warm biscuits and grits from Ace Biscuit & Barbecue. It was perfect for a cold and rainy Sunday. Below are some of my favorite breakfast joints in Charlottesville. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/ace-biscuit-and-barbecue-charlottesville-3?select=9sacsStxvtqgQMnbXIkeYw

https://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/ace-biscuit-and-barbecue-charlottesville-3?select=9sacsStxvtqgQMnbXIkeYw

Ace Biscuit & Barbecue

If you're in the mood for greasy spoon, Ace is your place (hey look at that rhyme!). Tucked away in the quiet Rose Hill neighborhood, Ace has a great variety of biscuit sandwiches, barbecue and worthy daily specials. And I mean it about the specials! I had the best chicken noodle soup of my life here. Every time I walk into this cozy storefront, my fingers are crossed hoping that I see that soup on the chalkboard menu. But I digress, if you're at Ace try the Ol' Dirty Biscuit, fried chicken, sausage gravy, dill pickles and pimento cheese on a buttermilk biscuit.

Bodo's

Old reliable! Ask any UVA-er and they'll tell you the almost magical properties of a warm Bodo's Bagel on a particularly hungover morning. Cheap, easy and with three locations around Cville, Bodo's is a great go-to. I usually get a whole wheat bagel with kalamata olive spread and plain cream cheese. For the olive adverse, Bodo's is known for their Deli-Egg, scrapped deli meats and cheese folded into an egg omelet.

Pigeon Hole

Pigeon Hole is your roll-out-of-bed, dirty hair piled on top of your head, big sweater college breakfast spot. Both the food and the atmosphere are comforting and cozy, and none of the coffee mugs match, which I love. Sometimes there's a wait but all in all a solid places to satisfy your hunger.

Ivy Provisions

Ivy P is one of those places where you never quite know what to order because everything tastes so good. This includes rather bizarre sandwiches like the Antonio's P3B, peanut butter, banana, smoked bacon and honey served on grilled sourdough. On a less breakfast-y note, Ivy P has an impressive wine selection and offers tastings every Wednesday.