Friday Five

Five things I’m into right now…

I got this fun idea from Nina Badzin. I hope she doesn’t mind if I take this topic and add my own two cents (or five as in this case).

1. Downton Abbey. Like Nina, I’m completely on the bandwagon for this Masterpiece Classic. Everywhere I go people are talking about it. My co-workers, my hairdresser, the dude on the subway with his sideways baseball cap (come on, buddy).What? You haven’t seen it? Start with season 1 because the plot builds. Pop some popcorn and find a comfy chair because you’ll be hooked. All episodes are online at

So go watch already. Then after you’ve met Mr. Pamuk, let’s talk!

2. Stuff You Missed in History Class. Whenever I take Reggie for a long walk, I listen to one of these 20 minute podcasts. Each episode tackles a different topic from Al Capone to the origins of the Christmas tree. If only my college history TA had made his lectures this interesting instead of showing us videos so he could nap while trying to get over a raging hangover. But that’s another post.

The podcasts are hosted by How Stuff, so if you don’t groove on history, they have other series: Stuff of Genius (inventions), Stuff Your Mom Never Told You (differences between the sexes), TechStuff (gadgets), How to Stuff (steps for everything from how to repair a toilet to how to create your own podcast).

3. Van Gogh. Speaking of the history podcasts, I just listened to a great episode about Van Gogh.  It interested me for a few reasons:

One of the paintings Vincent created while at the sanitarium.

(1) I’m interested to learn how it seemed he was able to channel his mental illness to creativity. (He had produced some 1,400 paintings and sketches and had only sold one in his lifetime.)

(2) I’m curious as to some of the incidents we accept as fact about Van Gogh may not be true. For example, he may not have cut off his own ear in the midst of a seizure. All signs point to fellow painter, anger-crazed Gauguin, having done it in a joke-turned-compeition gone wrong. Also a book was published last year which posits that Van Gogh did not kill himself in the wheat fields near Arles, but that some local kids were messing around and the gun accidentally went off. (It took him two days to die from his wounds.)

(3) I’m hoping to go to the Van Gogh museum when I am in Amsterdam this spring. So I’ll have to learn how to pronounce Van Gogh the proper way like I have a lot of phlegm in the back of my throat. Van Gochkshs. Okay, that was uncalled for. I’m feeling a bit irreverent this morning.

4. Pret A Manger. When MTV moves some of their divisions into your office building, the neighborhood starts looking up. Before, we had one greasy spoon diner and one buffet place where the sneeze guard left you feeling queasy. Now, it seems retailers and restauranteurs don’t want to miss out on the Lady Gaga quotient. (She caused a near-riot of groupies when she was in the building last summer.) We have food trucks galore parking on the block at lunchtime, a Starbucks, a drugstore and Pret A Manger.

Pret has locations around the world, but I think they’re only in a few cities in the US right now. The food is good and the workers are…wait for it…nice. They smile. They look like they are happy to be there. They ask you how you’re doing. They listen to your answer.  This may be no big deal for you folks who live in kinder, gentler places. (I envy you.) But here sometimes people ring up your purchases as if they are out for revenge or something. Once I had a cashier walk away from the register because I was taking too long to get change out of my wallet. She never came back. Another time I pointed out that a cashier had rung up $8.99 for an item instead of $3.99. She acknowledged the mistake and then yelled at me.

I have actually left money in the tip jar for the folks at Pret. I *heart* you, Pret.

5. Liga Masiva. Some people have suggested that I am addicted to coffee. Just because I start twitching and get headaches if I skip my morning cup, doesn’t mean I can’t stop any ol’ time I want. Not that I’m going to, but if I wanted to I could. But I don’t want to. Get off my back.

Anyway. Liga Masiva acts as an online farmers’ market.  They connect organic growers in the Dominican Republic directly with addicts coffee drinkers like me. They facilitate bringing the beans to market in a responsible way so that the growers get a fair wage. Then some folks from the nabe, Brooklyn Roasting Company, roast the beans to order. They pack ’em up and ship ’em to you within hours. It’s a wonderful business model and a delicious cup of coffee.

What are some things you’re into these days? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 



    1. Absolutely addicting! You must be able to get the episodes before we do. Here we are just a few weeks into the 2nd season. I hear there was a Christmas special! We’ll probably be watching that in June. 🙂


  1. I haven’t caught any episodes of DA, mainly because I didn’t think they were showing in my area. But I just discovered it’s on channel 8 on Sundays at 8 (easy to remember), so I’m watching it this Sunday. Looking forward to it!

    Pret sounds like heaven. It surely must feel like it in busy, brusque NY!


  2. Great post today, Jackie. I would love to watch Downton Abbey. I haven’t heard about it here under my rock. Looks terrific!

    By the way, we would love to watch the Oprah/Sean Penn special on Haiti, but Sara thinks OWN is a premium channel here–that we don’t get it. We may be able to find it online though. Thanks for the reminder.

    Have a great weekend, my friend!



    1. I wonder if you could watch the Haiti special online after it airs in prime time. I hope to catch it online myself.

      Hope your weekend is great!


  3. I went to the Van Gogh museum when I was eleven and I still remember a lot of the paintings there…just amazing. I know it probably gets annoying when it’s your everyday reality but – I long to experience the famous NY shop assistant grumpiness! And a taxi driver hurling abuse as I cross the road! Sigh, one day, one day….


    1. I hope someday you get the full NYC experience – a cashier gives you the stink eye while bagging your groceries. She’ll put the eggs on the bottom and the cans on the top.
      Meanwhile I’ll be at your house feeding the baby wallaby. 😉


  4. I’m late to the Downton Abbey party, so this is great news! I’m sure I will be hooked too.

    Van Gogh is a big favorite of mine, but I’d never heard those stories. Didn’t think his life could get more tragic. Enjoy that museum!

    I once gave up coffee for about six years. Big mistake.


    1. Six years? I’m getting nervous twitches just thinking about it.
      I hope you enjoy Downton Abbey as much as I do. It’s such fun!


  5. You are the umpteenth person to mention Downtown Abbey. I am – now – officially interested in finding out about all the buzz.

    I liked this new take on Friday 5. And, I think it is fine that you totally don’t want to give up coffee. And yes, I believe you could if you wanted to – me, too. But, I’m not going to give it up, either!

    Love the Van Gogh/How stuff works info, too. I’m taking the boys see Pollock and Picasso in February. I wonder how much we know about anyone, really.


    1. Thank you for the vote of confidence, Lenore. I *could* give up coffee. If I wanted to. Yes, I could.

      I think the history podcast had an episode about Picasso. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it, but if it’s anything like the Van Gogh segment, it will be really informative. You can find them on ITunes also for free download.


  6. You’re right! Everywhere I go, people are raving about Downton Abbey and Doctor Who. I’m so out of the loop. I need to tune in so I can pretend to fit in. 😉

    The world would be a very sad place without coffee. I’ve actually considered putting my coffee maker on my nightstand, so instead of waking to the radio, I’d wake to the aroma of freshly brewed French Roast.

    Have a great weekend!


    1. I must warn you…like coffee, Downton Abbey is addicting. I mean, I can stop watching anytime I want.
      What is going on with Mr. Bates? I want to know!


  7. Thanks for the shout-out! I watched that Downton Abbey clip three times. Love the music. Great addition to the DA mention. Your list was so much more intellectual than mine. I’m officially in a shame pit. 😉


    1. Thanks for this idea. It’s fun to pass along these things. I’d never hear that that kind of shampoo until I read your post. I’m going to have to try it.

      BTW – Did you hear about the DA Christmas special? It aired in the UK at the end of season 2.


  8. Hi Jacki. Just catching up on Downton Abbey. didn’t watch the first series and now they are replaying it on another TV channel.
    And Pret A Manger? I have seen this only in London but I love it. And coffee addiction – not me. I could give it up anytime – yeah really!


    1. Judith, I will have to get some pointers from you about how to abstain from the “black gold.” 😉
      I hope you enjoy Downton Abbey as much as I do. We’ll all have to start a club.


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