Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Albums of My Year

Growing up, I never thought of myself as a music person. I actually remember saying, “I don’t really like music,” while I was in elementary school. The first CD I owned was The Soundtrack to the Lion King. The second CD was an Ultimate Dance Party mix including essential hits like, “The Macarena,” and “The Chicken Dance.” You know, so I could practice at home for skating parties. But really, I would actually listen to these from start to finish while playing Freescale on our Windows 3.1 PC.

Then, our family got Greatest Hits, Queen, and I knew every word to “Fat Bottom Girls,” and “Bicycle Race.” Because it wasn't on the CD, I didn’t even know "Bohemian Rapsody" existed.
So, today, I find it extremely flattering when friends compliment my party playlists. Oh, how far I have come!. Thanks very much to the influence from high school friends, music festivals, iTunes, Spotify, and this guy.

Thus, with the oh-so-quickly closing to the year, here’s a few of my favorite albums of 2011 (with one exception):

Foster the People, Torches
I discovered FTP in March, via a South by Southwest music-sampler. They reminded me of MGMT, except... better. A few months later their first album, Torches, came out, and nonstop radio play soon followed. For my friends and me, this has definitely been the year for Foster the People dance parties.

Belle Brigade, Belle Brigade
Ha, does anybody else still use the iTunes Pick of the Week? Every Tuesday iTunes has a new song available for free download. And over the last few months, they’ve increased it to 3-4 free songs instead of just one. I’m pretty sure “Where Not To Look For Freedom” was a free iTunes download back in March. At first I thought it was too country, but after I listened to the whole song, and then the whole album, I had found a new fav. I was quite fortunate to see them play twice this year, both at the DMB Caravan Fest in Washington, and at ACL two weeks later.

Fitz and the Tantrums, Pickin’ Up the Pieces (2010)
I was sad to learn that this album actually came out in 2010. However, I didn’t listen to it until this past spring, when I was researching artists for ACL. I think Fitz and the Tantrums sound like they are from back in the 60s or 70s. I listened to a lot of them this year while making dinner.

Adele, 21
One of my favorite local music dudes, Andy Langer, said 21 was for sure to be the best selling album of 2011. It reminds me of driving to/from kickball all spring, and of the phenomally awesome Glee Mashup from this fall.

Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
I first heard Fleet Foxes at ACL 2008 when they played an afternoon set to a couple hundred fans. They were excellent! So, I’ve been a fan ever since, however I was not as impressed with their new album as I was with their first.

Brett Dennen, Loverboy
Alternatively, I feel that Brett Dennen’s new album, Loverboy, is definitely his best yet. I also discovered him through ACL (2009) and saw him play again at The Gorge this fall. His look is about as unique as his voice, and I dig them both.

Florence + the Machine, Ceremonials
This CD has been in my car since I burned it last month. The girl can SING.

Givers, In Light
I think I got “Up Up Up” as a free download from Amazon. As soon as I heard the song I loved it, and quickly Spotifi-ed (are people saying that yet?) the entire album. It’s very much my taste.

Kanye & Jay-Z, Watch the Throne
The fact that Jay-Z didn't show up at ACL was horrifyingly tragic. What a dumb rumor. Regardless, the Kanye concert was really fun. I think he is one of the artists I started liking from radio play. Either that, or my college dormmates...
Thanks Char, Jackie, and Justyna for introducing me to Hip Hop. Among other things...

M83, Hurry Up We’re Dreaming
Haha, this one is also thanks to the radio, specifically Chillville. Five years ago I never would have liked this kind of music, “too modern!” But today it’s totally perfect for lazy Sunday mornings, weekdays at the office, or Friday game nights.

Did I miss any of your favorites from 2011?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 Days of Thankful - Part 3

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but before November ends, let's finish up a few more things I'm thankful for.

November 17th – I should have saved the new babies post for this date because on the 17th I faced my fears and helped Dasha babysit Ellie. I will proudly admit, it was way less terrifying than I’d imagined. Still, when I got home that night I realized how thankful I am to not have a child just yet. Ellie wore me out! Someday I know it’ll be great, but... not today.
Sometimes you just have to feed the kid from the kitchen floor.

November 18th – I am thankful for Fridays! Knowing you get the next day off always makes working so much easier. Especially when you have a long weekend coming up.

November 19th – My mom’s birthday was the 19th. I already said how thankful I am for her; I am also thankful for the things that make her happy. Some of those things are the same as mine (sunshine, bros, Kansas) but they also include things like Survivor, Kayaking, and Yogurt. I am thankful for those things, and that she gets to visit Chris and I for Christmas this year.

November 20th – I am thankful for my home. The Bastrop fires this fall really put this one into perspective for me. I'm really glad I have a kitchen, couch, laundry room, TWO bathrooms, and nice comfy bed to come home to every day.

November 21st – I am thankful for paid-time-off. PTO may be the best perk from a salaried position. I took half of Tuesday and all of Wednesday off for Thanksgiving and BOY do I thank my boss and my company for our extremely lax vacation policy. Unlimited days?! Thank you very much.

November 22nd - I am thankful for potlucks! Our work Thanksgiving feast was epic. We had so many potatoes, beans, stuffings, and my orange-chipotle spiced pecans. Potlucks are so much fun because you only have to cook a small amount, but together you create such a big meal with such a fun variety of flavors. Delicious.
November 23rd – Hanging out with high school friends in Kansas is always so interesting to me. Some aspects of our personalities have changed so much from what we were like back at North, but other parts are exactly the same. I am really thankful I got to spend a little time with Katie and Jonas this past weekend. If only we all lived in the same city all the time.
UT football game feast, thanks Davidows.

November 24th – Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for food. I love food and I’m very thankful it's readily available to me.
Thanksgiving dinner at my dad's.

November 25th – On “Black Friday” my mom took my brothers and me to the KC Zoo. I hadn’t been to the zoo in years and it was pretty amusing to return. We all felt it was a much more positive experience to explore in the brisk 45 degrees than it is in the sweltering 95 degree KC summers. Even though I don’t like animals, I am thankful that they can provide joy to others. Some people really like animals, so I guess I'm glad they’re around.
Can you spot the Roo?

November 26th – I am thankful for the newspaper. Another one of my favorite parts about Kansas is reading my mom’s Kansas City Star. I don’t get the paper here, so I love reading it when it’s available. And, I am also thankful for crossword puzzles.

November 27th – I am thankful for my salary. That twice a month paycheck keeps me afloat and without it I know I’d be stressing like crazy.

November 28th – I am thankful for Christmas time! I brought back all my favorite ornaments for Chris' and my first tree together, and I even made a wreath.
You can make it too.

November 29th – Like last year, my friends and I have chosen two charities for the holidays. We’re adopting a local family through Any Baby Can, and we’re buying some ducks through the Heifer organization. I am really thankful everybody was excited to participate in these organizations again. I am also thankful I've gotten a little less scrooge-like with my money over the years.
Nate's pillow friend, from last year.

November 30th – Thirty whole things! Did I forget anything? I have so many things to be thankful for; it’s hard to pick and choose the “best ones.” I guess one final thing I am really thankful for is the inspiration and support to start blogging again (aka, you). Blogging has been very therapeutic for me. I’m thankful I got my act together on that one.

Ok two final pics from Thanksgiving break.
Crackers the cat.

A tree in my dad's lawn. This picture was taken on Wednesday morning. By Sunday, that tree was almost totally leaf-less.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

30 Days of Thankful - Part 2

I tried to start this blog post on Sunday night, but the creativity was not flowing. Something about sitting on the couch snuggling with Khyra made me want to shut my laptop and grab a book (or the TV remote). I suppose I don't really do computers on the weekend anymore... sitting in front of them all day M-F at work makes me say to myself on weekends, "Oh, it can wait until Monday."

Or Wednesday...

Shall we continue?

November 9th - I am thankful for my education. Without a degree I would never have gotten my job. Despite how crappy college turned out to be for me, I'm very glad I stuck it out and graduated.
With Shirin and Alex before UT's December Commencement
November 10th - I am thankful for my mom and pops. Thanks for college! For high school play costumes, band uniforms, instruments, dance classes, flute lessons, and everything else you sponsored. Thanks for coaching me through job interviews and nagging me to "follow up!" Thanks for helping me with my spelling words, state capitals, and the dreaded bug project. Thanks for treating me like an adult at the appropriate time and for punishing me when I acted like a bratty brat. Thanks for encouraging me to do whatever I want, still! Way to go guys, keep it up.
Last month, at Gingerman

In Fredericksburg, last spring

November 11th - Even though Hank and Reg will always do weird things, I sure am thankful for my bros. Growing up would not be the same without them and their gross friends. I realized it a lot during my Christmas vacation with Chris' family last year. He has two brothers too, and when all three of them were together last year, it was very similar to Hank and Reg's behavior. Oh, except now they are all 20-somethings and thus even bigger and louder. So, thanks to the training I got for what boys do. Wresting... farting... yah, that’s about all boys do.

November 12th – I did the weather, I did my friends, but I didn’t do AUSTIN! I am so thankful I decided to go to UT and met Chris and stayed in Austin. Texas sucks, but Austin is terrific. There are so many random things to do and so many new neighborhoods to discover. It’s urban, it’s rural, it’s residential and through the last few years, it’s become home.
Photo from, 365 Things to Do in Austin, taken yesterday morning.

November 13th – And even though I love Austin, I love Kansas too. I am thankful I get to travel next week and spend Thanksgiving in KC. Kansas was such a great home for me for so many years. I met some of my best friends there, had some awesome seasons (spring and fall- like none other), and had a really great education. Kansas shaped me into who I am. So thanks Sunflower State; I can’t wait to come visit you!
Us girls at the Royal's Game

November 14th – One thing I’ll always think of right away when I think about Kansas is theatre. It used to be such an enormous part of my life and I’m super thankful for all the skills I learned, the confidence I gained, and the memories I have from my early week-long theatre camps, elementary school “plays,” The Wall of Fame, CCS, Drama Conference, and BVN Rep Theatre. Theatre gave me a lot of direction (ha) and I’m very thankful it was/is? such a huge part of my life.

November 15th – I never thought I’d say this is important enough to put it on my list, but I am thankful for new babies. First there was Ellie, then my step-family’s kid, then Avery, another step-family’s kid on the way, and next March we’ll have Baby Hutson. I still think babies are super weird, but they can also be really amusing and cute.
Baby Ellie at TWO weeks old. She was so tiny!

November 16th – Today seems like the perfect day to do it because Chris comes home from Germany today! I sure am thankful I met him. I’m thankful he got to go to Germany for work and am thankful he gets to come home too. I definitely didn’t think I’d miss him as much as I did. Guess I like him. :-)
Fall 2008

Only one more Thanksgiving post to go. November is flying by.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

30 Days of Thankful - part 1

Ok, I know I’m several days behind on this, but I really like the idea. Every day in November, people have been posting on their blog/facebook about various things they are thankful for. Check out my friend Rachel’s posts about her hubs, siblings, and the military. I’m thankful she has those things too. But I’m also thankful for 8 other things! So, let’s just pretend I did these on the correct dates.

November 1st- I know I’ve said this before, but I am ever-so-thankful for my Austin framily. We have the best times together playing sports, board games, cooking, laughing, and sometimes crafting. Austin would not mean what it does to me without them.
Warrior Dash, Fall 2010

November 2nd – Speaking of Austin, another thing I’m very thankful for is sunshine, and here in Texas, we sure do get a lot of it. I once read an article about people actually being addicted to the sun. Like, in the same sense you can be addicted to coffee. I’m pretty sure I’m one of those people. Good thing it’s almost always sunny here.
Sarah and I at Kite Fest last March.

November 3rd – I’ll just segue right along here, with the third thing I’m thankful for… coffee. I know I’m addicted to it, because a morning is never happy without a little cup ‘o jo. I blame my parents for starting me on this path. It was they who first suggesting I start drinking coffee before my freshman year 8am classes. If not for their encouragement, I’d probably still be saying, “No, I only like Frappuccinos.” But since then, I drink just a cup or two every day. Any less than that and I’ll get a headache and just NEVER seem to wake up. Anymore than that and I’m practically drunk with energy. Not to say it isn’t hilariously entertaining…
November 4th – I am thankful for my happy childhood. On Fridays for the past few months, Chris and I have played in a coed soccer league. Playing soccer today is just as hard for me as it was when I was a little kid. I remember my mom and dad being actively involved in all my brothers’ and my activities. Although I wasn’t developed enough to appreciate it, I am so thankful that they were willing to sacrifice their own interests to coach us, drive us, and watch us from the stands.

November 5th - Playing soccer makes me think of running, which makes me think of nice weather (kind of already covered that) and another very important thing to be thankful for… my health! When I hurt my back a few weeks ago I once again realized how important it is to build strong bones and muscles. So people, try to walk more. Heck, maybe even run. Get outside. Do stuff. I bet you will return even happier than when you left the house. So, I am thankful I healed up from all my injuries so quickly. I am thankful that I have good lungs and strong legs that allow me to walk and run.
and jump too!

November 6th – Chris left for Germany Sunday morning, leaving me alone for 10 days. Alone, hahaha, silly me. I am not alone. For I am thankful for Khyra. Khyra cat and I had some serious bonding time Sunday afternoon as I watched the last few episodes of Sex and the City and moved right along into the movie. Khyra loves me. And… I think I’ve learned to love her too.
November 7th - In keeping with my "Vegetarian for 10 Days" goal, last night I made zucchini pizzas for dinner. They were topped with mountains of veggies and were seriously delicious. I couldn't follow the recipe exactly, as it instructed one to first grill the zucchini slices, like, on a grill. Well, for one, it was raining last night (RAIN!) and for two, I'm not the grillmaster in this little household. So, as enterprising as I am, I grilled them on one of my most favorite inventions ever, and oh, how I am thankful for my George Forman Grill. Chris hates this little device, but I still use it all the time. I'm sure my love for this $15 appliance developed from the weird infatuation my friends had with it. I then passed it along to my family, who quickly fell in love with theirs too. So, thanks "Georgie" (as my mom calls it) for helping me grill my zucchini, sandwiches, and other delicious meals.
November 8th – TODAY. See, it was easy to catch right back up! I’ve been meaning to do a whole entire post about this little love of mine, yet something else always seems to come up. So, in a quick little blurb… I am thankful for the public library! Free books are one of the greatest things ever. I've used the Austin Public Library to read bestsellers like, Bossypants, The Hunger Games, and most recently, Jane Lynch's autobiography,
Learned a lot.

I just got notice that my next requested book is available for pick up, so after work tonight I'm gonna run over there to pick up,
Libraries are just the best.

What are you thankful for??

Friday, October 14, 2011

Visitors from Kansas

As I mentioned last week, this past weekend two of my best Kansas-friends came down to Austin for a weekend visit. Wildg had never been to Austin and KV had visited me once before, right after I graduated from UT.
Last time she was here.

The three of us had an awesome time touring around the city and hanging out with many of my Austin-friends. It was especially fun for me to check out so many places on my “to do in Austin” list. It seems like every time I cross something off the list, something else gets added on.

Because of their suggestions, and maybe because of Cup of Jo’s Guide to NYC, I’ve been inspired to add more Austin-centered places and events to my little blog. I know haven’t been everywhere, so it’ll be a work in progress for all of us.

Our weekend, in summary:

James’ house for the UT v. OU game – Although the result was unfortunate, it was a good setting for the girls to meet the framily* and witness first-hand, how insane the UT/OU rivalry is.

The Bats on the Congress Bridge – This is a MUST SEE for any Austin resident or visitor. The first time I saw them was standing on the side of Town Lake with my family back in ’05. It’s way cooler standing on the bridge. So many bats! I can’t wait to go back and see them again when my dad visits.
Hard to see them, but there's tons.

Jolvita’s to see The Eggmen – The Eggmen are Austin’s BEST Beatles Cover Band. I love them. And the hilarious 40-somethings dancing to them at Jolvita’s made for excellent people watching.

Sandy’s Frozen Custard – When I told my mom that KV and Wilg were coming she said, “Oh make sure to take them to Sandy’s for an ice cream cone!”
Taco Shack – They’d never had breakfast tacos before. EVER.
Kung Fu Saloon – Chris and I listen to Chillville almost every Sunday morning. We’ve heard the ads for unlimited game play, $1 mimosa, and the bloody mary bar countless times, yet this was the first time I’d been there. Needless to say, we will surely be back. FREE skiball. So fun.
The State Capital Building– How horrible is it that in all these years as an Austin resident I’ve never been inside the Capital building? Well, now I have. It was old. And quite large. Interesting fact: at the time it was built, Texas was unsure of its borders. Thus, they just have the star image everywhere inside, but the actual state outline is nowhere to be found.
First & Annie Street Art
Yay, we saw it!

South Congress – One of my favorite spots in Austin. Allen’s Boots, Uncommon Objects, Lucy in Disguise, Tesoros Trading… unfortunately the street vendors weren’t there (RAIN!) but SoCo is sooo the first thing on my list of places to take visitors.
Whole Foods – This is my dad’s favorite spot in Austin. We dined at the seafood area and grabbed a few things for Chris’ surprise birthday party that night. OH MAN I just remembered, they were giving out fresh baked ciabatta bread samples at the bakery. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
Photo from The Statesmen.com

Tacodeli – The breakfast tacos were such a hit the day before that we… got them again! Please note, Tacodeli is my favorite taco spot (but I still haven’t had them all).

UT Campus –We wandered from north of Kinsolving down to the new SAC building. Shoot, I forgot to take them inside Gregory Gym. Then we headed west to see the ridiculous statue placement (image below) before crossing through the main mall and down to the Drag. We made a few stops inside the Co-op, Tylers, Whole Earth Provision Co., swung by the DG house for Wildg, and then headed up north toward Toy Joy.
Spiderhouse - Chris couldn’t believe I’d never been to Spiderhouse. But nope! Wildg summed it up when we walked through the patio and she said, “Oh, let’s sit at the table by the bathtub.” Only in Austin.
Madam Ma’ams – The last stop on our roughly 2 mile walk was for a late lunch. Although the service was troublesome, the meal was delicious (per usual). We headed off to the airport and I told them to grab some Amy’s just before taking off to really complete the trip (and make their plane-mates supremely jealous).

If only we’d had time for the Cathedral of Junk and Master Pancake at the Alamo. Until next time, I’m sure. And in conclusion, I leave you this little facebook finding in anticipation for the week to come.

*Framily: Friends who might as well be family.
Also, super thanks to Wildgen for all the photos!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

In Review

It was okay, but it was not the greatest. Maybe it’s my fault for doing too much research and not having as many new discoveries, but I didn’t enjoy this year’s festival nearly as much as I have in years past. However, one thing that I did enjoy was hanging out with a group of friends for 3 days straight. In the past, I’ve gone with just one other person, and although that makes it a lot easier to squeeze up close to the stage, I always ended up spending a lot of the festival by myself in order to see the acts that I wanted to see. So, this year there were five of us, and together we smushed in with the crowds, relaxed in our chairs, and ate a lot of cheeseburgers. Overall, keeping a schedule jam-packed full of various artists. Here’s who I saw:

2:30pm Delta Spirit
3:30-4:10ish James Blake (overheard from quite a distance)
4:10pm Ray LaMontagne
5:10-5:20pm Beardyman
5:30pm Foster the People
7:30pm Pretty Lights
8:30pm Kanye

1:30pm The Belle Brigade
2:00pm Young the Giant
3:00pm City and Colour
4:00pm Iron and Wine
5:00pm Fitz and the Tantrums
6:30pm Cee Lo
8:00pm Stevie Wonder

1:30pm Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.
2:30pm The Walkmen, Airborne Toxic Event, and Suzanna Choffel (about 60 seconds each, as I wandered aimlessly in the humidity)
4:05pm School of Rock Kiddos
4:45pm Pernikoff Brothers
5:15pm Joseph Arthur
5:45pm Elbow
6:30pm Fleet Foxes
7:30pm Empire of the Sun
8:30 Arcade Fire

Click here to view these pictures larger

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Dave at the Gorge

We left our campsite Monday around 7:15am and arrived at SeaTac around 10:30am. Right after we went through security and started walking to the departure gate we saw the news on a nearby TV. Fires across Bastrop. Fires in Steiner Ranch. Fires in Spicewood. Remember the earthquakes, hurricanes and flooding on the east coast last week? All the while, Texas has been in a horrific drought, and now, our homes, forests, and ranches are burning up. Weather is viscous. Please put my friends Debbie and Natalie in your thoughts and prayers; they are directly affected by the Bastrop fires. As of Tuesday afternoon, some 600 homes have been destroyed, and the fires still aren't contained. Needless to say, that was a bit of a reality check for us coming home from a weekend of camping in the middle of Washington. And what a weekend it was. We spent just enough time in sunny Seattle to eat a bowl of chowder with Jackie, get a parking ticket, and see the fish toss in Pike's Place Market.
From there, it was right onto Chris's friend's quaint little house to grab a few camping supplies and then to the grocery store to purchase various provisions. This was the first time the four of us had camped without a fire or a grill, so we feared the lack of hot food (meat) might make us cranky. Fear not, for smoked salmon, cold-cut turkey, and summer sausage did the trick.
We made it to the Gorge by about 7:30pm Thursday evening and thus began an unforgettable weekend. The music was perfect. Dave performed three great sets, John Butler Trio had me smiling for a solid hour, and Brett Dennen, Dispatch, and the Belle Brigade were the icing on the cake. One artist in particular, Josh Ritter, captured my feelings particularly well during his Sunday afternoon set. He mentioned that he grew up in nearby Idaho and that he had been dreaming of performing at the Gorge since he was a little kid. That day was a dream come true for both him, and thousands of fans. He was smiling through his entire set, and I caught him taking pictures of the crowd while Dispatch played after him. I absolutely LOVE it when newer artists are so in awe of how far they've come. Josh reminded me of Regina Spektor during her ACL set a few years back. Does anybody else remember that? She kept saying, "There are so many of you!" It was great.
So, to summarize. The Gorge is worth it. Go there. See it. You will understand why artists love to play there, and why Josh Ritter dreamed about it as a little kid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

home again

Well ladies and gentlemen........... we’re back!

I couldn’t help but think of this just then.

What a trip. It was great. Oregon was beertiful and Ohio was tons of fun. I am SO THANKFUL for my job, my company, and my boss to give me a week and a half vacation in the middle of August. A serious, serious vacation, where I did not think about work for one second. Ok, except for maybe last Monday morning, when I woke up smiling with the thought that I wasn’t there. It was glorious.

And this week, my boss is taking her verymuchneeded vacation so I’m thrown right back into productivity at the workplace. No complaints here, as it’ll Labor Dave, ACL, and KV/Wilgen’s visits to TX before I know it. Uh yeah, you heard correctly, I only have 2 full weeks of work before we’re back to the northwest. TAKE THAT Texas drought. We can escape you!
I uploaded all the pictures to my laptop last night, but the edits/cropping will take another few days before they're facebook worthy. In the meantime, here's a preview of the memories I captured from my camera phone.
11:15am on Thursday, August 4th. We arrived at PDX. (Is it just me, or is it a bit funny that Austin is abbreviated as ATX, and Portland is PDX? Comparison #1.)

Wine tasting on Friday. LOOK at that green grass.

Ha, after three, or four, or, eh-who's counting? wine samples, clearly, I had to document the BACON JERKY BITS in the nut mix we were served. Peanuts? Bacon? Wine? I'll take it.

REAL, LIVE, GROWING lilies at my aunt's house.

Mt. Hood, in all it's volcanic glory.

What is Beyonce doing in Rockaway Beach, OR? Bahaha, enormous metal chickens will be eternally hilarious to us all.

and while I'd really like to end with that one. Our trip continued to Ohio last Thursday, and this image below pretty much sums up our all-night flight, 7:00am arrival, and no-i'm-not-kidding 4:00pm hotel check in. We were sleepy and homeless for the day.
Thank goodness it still rains in other parts of the country. Cleveland State University offered a bed of grass for Chris to nap on.

Many more stories and pictures to come. What a trip!