Friday, December 30, 2011

Ho Ho Holidays

How was your Christmas? Chris and I hosted our first ever Christmas in Austin. Well, not counting Christmas ’09 where I was snowed in all alone. Needless to say, this year’s was loads better.
Oh, and I got my hair cut. Six whole inches!

My mom so charmingly commented, “Oh, it’s so cool to see the combination of traditions!” We had the Kapka favorites- ham, rolls, fruit salad, and Christmas crackers, right beside Chris’s sweet potato casserole, jalapeno creamed-corn, and Christmas Wife Saver. Not too shabby.
I later realized it was the perfectly sized feast for our dining table.

But, that’s way behind us now. I took all our decorations down last night because we’re off to Houston this weekend to see Chris’s family. He’s cutely excited about it. And I haven’t had Taste of Texas since Tyler graduated from high school, which was basically centuries ago. So I’m pretty excited too.

Have a wonderful New Years! Oh, how I wish I could post the video I’ve been working on for the past three days straight. Alas, its premier is postponed until next Friday.

Peace out 2011!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Favorite Things!

It’s time. My second annual Favorite Things. In my life, this was a really good year for the arts. I did a lot of book reading, crafting, and blog reading. So, here they are, in no particular order.

1. Best-Selling Book Series
I started 2010 reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series and could not put them down. They remind me of episodes of Alias because each episode/chapter ends with a sick cliff-hanger.
Then, toward the end of the summer I sped through The Hunger Games trilogy and am subsequently sooo excited for the movies.
Book 1) Loved it. Book 2) Got annoyed, but cried. Book 3) Cried again, dagnabit.

2. Pinterest
An excellent source for recipes, crafts, and internet hilarity. It is also, a really convenient way to organize wish lists, to-do lists, and gift-giving lists. It's definitely in the early stages of development and has a few kinks to work out, but I am hopeful the interface continues to improve.
Let me know if you want an invitation.

3. Sprouts
Sprouts has really great deals on produce, wine, bulk nuts, and organic chicken breasts. Sometimes they’ll do crazy $1 greek yogurt sales too. Although their cashiers cannot compare to HEB’s speedy college-students, because the store is much smaller, if I stick to my list, I can typically get in and out in under 30 minutes.
4. The Wire
Words cannot express how good The Wire is. It’s so good, I cannot list any other TV shows I’ve been watching this year, this one series takes the cake. And we’re only on season three!
5. Greek Yogurt
This has become one of my necessities for 2011. A little cup of yogurt is a perfect afternoon snack to prevent hunger from hitting until after a 4:30pm workout. Add a dab of honey or some fresh berries and yum yum delicioso. Because we usually have it in the fridge, I’ve tried to find some dinner recipes that incorporate it too. This year, my friends and I have feasted on Grilled Portobello Philly-"Steak" Sandwiches with blue cheese sauce, Turkey Stroganoff, and most recently, some tasty veggie dip – all made with greek yogurt.
6. Spotify
I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Spotify is excellent. It’s similar to Pandora and Grooveshark. You can pick almost any artist, song, or album and stream it on demand. You can also link it to several computers so you’ll have the same playlist at work and at home. And, you can share playlists through facebook, or by giving friends your specific link. And, it will play any music you have stored on your computer commercial free. Seeya later itunes!
7. My Black Mini Backpack
Funny story about this one. My mom came to visit me last January carrying this really nicely sized black backpack. Perfect for traveling, music festivals, or (in our case) hiking trips. I complimented her on it's simple and efficient design and she laughed saying, "oh, I have lots of these at the hospital. I'll get you one." It's a formula bag! She got them get from some vendor. I use mine all the time and absolutely love it. What's the saying, "Sometimes the best gifts in life are free?" Yes.
8. Favorite Beer and Wine
New Belgium La Folly: The best beer I’ve had all year. I recommend you try it, but I will warn you, it sort-of tastes like a sour patch kid. It's not quite as sweet, but it does not taste like "normal" beer.
Rene Barbier Mediterranean White: This wine is very Lemonade-tasting, and I love it. Typically I've found bottles from $4-$6 each and worth every penny.
9. Plastic Cup w/ Straw
I got my plastic cup with plastic straw this summer from Chris’ company picnic. Then I accidentally left it at James’ house and still haven’t gone to get it back. But then, at work, one of our vendors gave them to us as Christmas gifts. Rejoice! This is the best cup ever invented because it fits in a car cup-holder, can easily refill with ice, and offers protection from thirsty cats. Just be careful not to knock it over.
This is not mine, but it is very similar

10. Google Reader
If you haven’t started using your Google Reader yet I encourage you to set that baby up ASAP. Here’s some of my favorite reads of this year, not counting anything written by my friends. Obviously those blogs are really my favorites.
Joy the Baker
Iowa Girl Eats (ha, I mention Kristin's blog aaaaall the time.)
The Hairpin
The Blogress
This was most definitely, the year of the Big Metal Chicken. Reference.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Run Jane Run

On October 23rd of this year I strained muscle in my lower back. But, you've already heard that story, right?

This back strain/pull/whateva made me pretty motionless too as it hurt to get up, lie down, sit, stand, and even walk. I felt so helpless. So, as soon as I healed up (thank goodness, it was only 7 days later) I was committed to becoming more active. As I wrote in my First Thankful post, I am so lucky to have a healthy working body.

I started running outside and using our old apartment’s fitness center a couple days a week. With all my costly activities and my measly paycheck, a $25/month gym-membership just seemed like too much money. But then the horrendous happened... daylight savings. I refuse to run in the dark, so I had almost no time to make it home, change, and run through the neighborhood before 5:30pm sunset. Thus, with the lack-of-sunlight and some solid peer-pressure, I finally joined a gym. For two years. And by-golly I’m going to get my money’s worth.

For the last three weeks, I have been following Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Training Plan. It’s a 12-week, novice plan that has you start with running about 12 miles a week, and increases at a slow/moderate pace to the 13.1 finale. My first two 4 mile runs were dare-I-say, fun to complete, however I’m really nervous about running 5 miles tomorrow since my body decided to reject all food consumption this past Monday night. Ugh, stomach-bugs are the worst. Today is actually the first day where I’ve seriously been hungry. I am thrilled. I’ve got three days of eating to catch up on! And three days of running too! I haven’t been to the gym since Monday. I cannot believe that I’m actually excited to see how I feel after today’s 40 minute work-out. These are words I seriously never thought I’d say. Seriously!

The down-side to all of this madness is that I sort-of forgot about Christmas shopping this year. With work, working out, showering, dinner, and sleeping, I feel like I haven’t had time for much else on my to-do list. And it’s long. We’ve got two Christmas parties on Saturday, guests coming on Tuesday, a little holiday only 9 days away, and... about 45 things to take care of before then. #firstworldproblems anyone?

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?