not faking

I think the thing that’s most true about me is that I’m not a faker.  It also happens to be the thing that keeps me from getting stuff filed away in the DONE pile.

Let me explain.  Even though I’ve been away from this space for much longer than I’d hoped, it’s not because I haven’t been thinking of being here – cause I think about it a lot.  It’s actually because I’m not a faker.  When things in my non-blogging life are slow, my blog life becomes increasingly spotty.  I’m going to focus on spending more time talking about those little things that happen in my life.  That way I don’t spend time trying to conjure up the most epic post ever and then fall down the sneaky guilt spiral of neglecting this space.

So here’s a hodgepodge of what I’ve been up to:

1. I worked a bar tent during a festival here in DSM recently.  I officially poured my first beer from a tap (I exclude all prior college-party kegs because those were for me) and then proceeded to do that all.night.long and you know what?  It was so much fun.  St. Lucia was there, Weezer was there, Wilco was there – it was awesome.

2. I started official training for the DSM Half in October.  I’m so pleased that there’s about four weeks of running ahead of me that consistently includes 2 miles because with the heat (okay, humidity) we’ve been enjoying lately, it’s been so hard to keep motivated.

3. I am almost finished with a 21 Day Fix (shoutout to my sister who is doing it too and she’s pretty much owning me).  I’ve been working out consistently and have fallen in mad-love with Shakeology.  I’d drink it for every meal.

4. I’ve been listening to a lot of Pond (just Medicine Hat, really), Cold War Kids, Father John Misty (and Fleet Foxes, by extension), Lord Huron and how did I just now discover The Decemberists?!

5. I’ve been pretty wiped after work lately but with the bounty of squash from the garden, there have been some delicious squash recipes coming out of the kitch.  My most favorite and one that I recommend to everyone is Summer Squash Gratin by Smitten Kitchen.  It’s incredibly easy, very forgiving and I’ve made a lot of changes to suit my own tastes and laziness.  Personally, I sub Fontina for Gruyere (yuck), add a dollop of goat cheese after it’s served up and always leave out the anchovies from the salsa verde.  Not because I’m afraid of anchovies or anything… but because they’re never on hand.

6. After my summer trip home, I need to save some coin for this little gem.  I’ve been eyeing it for about a year now and I think it’s finally time to make it mine.

Thank you guys for sticking through my inconsistency and my desire to always bring something true here.

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2014: my year in music

Happy New Year, lovelies!  I’m in the process of cooking up my resolutions but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about this post for quite some time.  2014 was a big year for me—in music.  I really got my money’s worth on my Spotify this year.  The following are some albums I loved that were released in 2014 and a couple that escaped my eye in 2013 that I played incessantly (abused) in 2014.  Enjoy!

If you looked at my Spotify most listens for 2014, you’d probably see this album on top.  The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream.  I’m pleased to see it topped some other online charts cause it’s getting the recognition it deserves.  It sounds almost etherial but definitely based in rock n’ roll.  The vocals sound super Dylan-esque (with a pinch of Dire Straits) and the music is borderline jam band but please don’t let that taint your initial impressions cause there’s a lot of synth in there.  The epic An Ocean In Between the Waves is a song that, at just over seven minutes, isn’t long enough.  I seriously want to dance like no one is watching.  2014 held two great concert disappointments – one of which is seeing The War on Drugs in Omaha (long story… same night as bags league – blah, blah, blah – no excuse is good enough).  I continue to kick myself over it but I can tell you that I won’t make that mistake again.

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While we’re on the subject, the second great concert disappointment of 2014 is not walking the five minutes to the 80/35 festival downtown when Boy & Bear had their free set.  Again… kicking myself.  But I could hear the end of their set from my apartment and let me tell you, it was so beautiful despite the distance it had to travel to meet my ears.  Even though technically Harlequin Dream was released in 2013, I played the heck out of it in 2014.  It started, quite literally, the moment their set was over and I listened heavily throughout the year.  Lyrically, this is where it’s at for me.  Their stuff is cheeky, well-written and the music backs it up.  Picking just one song off his album is really difficult because they’re all wonderful in their own right.  Please listen.

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Beck made a new album this year… so there’s that.  I couldn’t include a list without including Morning Phase.  This was an album I was so excited about that I continually streamed it off the NPR first-listen website days before it was actually released.  As you guys may already know, Sea Change is one of those albums that will forever be in my Top 10.  This entire album is simply delicious.  Listening for the first time was an experience because it sounds so much like Sea Change.  This album is all the beautiful things.  Imagine your happy place… right now… this album is the soundtrack to that happy place.

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I almost feel bad making a segue from Beck but there are more albums to be discussed.  That said… another massive listen for me toward the latter part of the year was Delta Spirit – Into the Wide.  I paid this album no mind initially because of my deep love for Ode to Sunshine but when my birthday surprise included a trip to Omaha to take in the Delta Spirit show, I had to give it a listen.  It was on after that.  The album is great but seeing them live is even better.  I gain so much respect for artists after seeing their live show and Delta Spirit were so gracious and fun and talented.

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I would be incredibly remiss if I didn’t include Broken Bells – After the Disco.  I realize this album might be a little more mainstream (like me saying my favorite band is Coldplay) and oft overlooked but I am a sucker for James Mercer.  And Danger Mouse.  ‘Nuff said.  While I’m not in love with every song on this album, it got a lot of play time during long drives.  It’s not actually a very long album and all the songs flow incredibly well.  I love the sound of the disco music with modern, clean, James Mercer vocals.

 

Notable 2014 players: 

Albums that didn’t get enough listen time: the full length release by Haerts happened this year!  Looking forward to more of that in 2015.  Spoon – They Want My Soul because yeah, Spoon.  I love their ability to change/reinvent their sound at any given time while maintaining that wide-body-guitar hum throughout.  I’m a huge fan of Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga and Gimmie Fiction and I was really looking forward to this release – I just haven’t listened enough.  Coldplay – Ghost Stories.  I love Coldplay.  I really wanted to listen and love this album but the truth is… it’s just *too sad* for me at the moment.  And I love sad.  My heart just breaks listening to the words and the music and it’s a gut punch for looking back on my own mistakes and sadness.  I think everyone can relate; I just need to be at a place where I won’t cry my eyes out at the first chord.  So I go back to their old stuff a lot (looking at you Live in 2003 which is unfortunately NOT on Spotify.).

You guys, there was SO much good stuff that went on in 2014—so many releases by some of my favorite bands.  One of the best things about music is its ability to shape what we want to listen to.  That’s happened to me a lot this year and I’ve gotten to experience my own tastes changing and evolving as a result.  The albums I’ve mentioned are the ones that will come with me into 2015.  They pass the Ryan-test of being lyrically and musically sound.  Music by artists that I feel are truly that: artists.  These albums get stamped in time so the next time I listen, I’ll remember where I was or what I was doing; I’ll feel happy or sad.  I believe that music is the soundtrack to life—the ultimate enhancer.  My hope is that maybe you’ll listen to some of this; maybe it won’t be for you but maybe some of it will… and we’ll have connected in the way that many others do across space and time.

holiday help

This holiday season, I’m being a responsible adult.

It’s always a bit difficult for me to do my Christmas shopping, pay for the rental car, pay for gas and tolls and then eat my way through Cleveland when I go home for a week at Christmas.  I usually end up back in Iowa with an empty bank account and 10 extra lbs (okay, okay—15).  As you guys know already, we’re “making” family gifts this year and I gotta tell you that I really like it.  Channeling my inner ‘crafter’ has been quite the new experience.

As a back-up plan, I thought I’d get all ‘in the Christmas spirit’ here on the blog and give you guys a gift guide.  You know, in case you all have an ultra cool 32-year-old in your life that you’re having to buy for and you just don’t know what to get her.  (wink face)

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First, foremost and only – she deserves this turntable.

Guys, let me get all nostalgic on you here.  There is something so rich and magical about vinyl.  This was a great year for albums and how nice would it be to relax by putting on a…. record…. after a long, hard day.  I’ll tell you right now, I’m all about it.

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Looking for something a bit less expensive and more personal?  I’ve got you covered.  For me, personally, one of my goals for this winter is finding a new signature scent.  I’ve been feeling like I want something that almost borders on masculine—because, and let’s be honest here, there’s something super alluring about musk.  Here are my top recommendations to achieve that desired affect: Oud & Bergamot – it’s both smoky *and* ladylike; Dark Amber & Ginger Lily – this one was surprising because the aroma of the Ginger Lily wasn’t near as overpowering as I thought it might be; Wood Sage & Sea Salt – this was quite literally a day at the beach followed by a bonfire at the shores after dark – very bewitching; and finally there’s the trusty Kiehl’s Original Musk.

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Still not quite getting there?  I submit this for your consideration.  It’s perfect for people like me who can’t quite handle actual animal heads on the walls but cool enough that it’s still considered pretty b.a.  I’m always looking for animal-friendly ways to gain street cred.  Obvi.

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Who am I kidding though… thoughtful gifts (and for me, experiences) are the best kind of gifts.  So this year, give from your hearts and I’m sure you’re all going to please everyone you love.  Even if that gift is edible (hey, that counts for craftiness, right?!).

stuff i love: fall edition (aka back to school)

We’re in what my dad referred to as ‘the dog days of summer’.  I knew that was a phrase, I just didn’t realize it was one people actually used in the course of conversation.

It’s HOT here—and I don’t just mean the temps are hot—it’s sticky.  The days are shorter and it’s positively miserable to be outside.  I’ve stopped wearing 90% of my makeup because it just runs down my face the moment I step outside.  And after my lunch time workout it’s pointless.  I am so excited for the days to get cooler, the nights to get even cooler and for all things fall to begin.  I think Des Moines is probably doing this to me on purpose (like how I said “me” right there?!).  It’s getting me primed for my favorite season, which also happens to be the shortest.  In the back-to-school vein, I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite internet finds here.  I am known (mostly to myself) as a queen of the internets so I thought I’d share some with you guys.  Let’s get ready for fall!

  • Some new spectacles for fall. I’ve loved Warby Parker since I learned about them five or so years ago. Reasonably priced stylish glasses?! Yes, please. I’m surprised I’ve held out so long but I’ve been searching for the PERFECT crystal frame. I think these are them.
  • With the nights getting cooler in the fall, it’s the perfect time for bonfires! Since DSM has been beating us down with heat since about May, it’s made fire-lit evenings few and far between. What else goes better with fire than s’mores?! I submit for your snacks this recipe, and this one, and this one (cause I obviously have one thing on my mind).
  • I recently made my way back to Ohio for my summer trip home to spend time with my family (read: AVERY) and while I was home, I ate some amazing food. One was a dish that my mother made. We had a cookout for Avery’s dedication and my mom made panzanella and guys… this is a tried and true success for grilling family get-togethers. Also, *I* cooked one of the nights (what, what). Rach and I went to stay with my mom and I suggested this dish which I could pretty much eat every night for dinner. I’ve made some modifications of my own to fit it to my tastes and it’s a very forgiving dish. I aim to impress and mission: accomplished. There were also A&W root beer floats consumed that same evening…. and my mom beat us both at Phase10 but then what else is new.
  • I’m kind of obsessed with the idea of creating the perfect inspirational home office. These pretty things could go a long way toward creating that space.
  • THIS APP!  Guys, I am an app snob and pretty set in my ways…that is till Mailbox came along. I actually deactivated my Apple Mail apps on my phone and desktop in order to use this. It’s pretty much organized the chaos that is my mailbox at all times. You can snooze messages to come back, archive, delete and sort all with one swipe. Through the generosity of RDB and through my own usage, I have 4 bit coins available to anyone who wants Mailbox Beta for their desktop OS (it’s still in beta but I’ll hook you up)—otherwise you can download the app and start using it for FREE on your iPhone (or other smartphone).
  • Currently reading: this, this, and I’ve kind of been meaning to start this. The Goldfinch is amazing. How authors can basically take the everydays of life and make them so emotional and engaging is beyond me. I’m definitely feeling all the feels in this book. I had to take a small break cause I’m at that point where I want to kind of draw it out because I want to be able to be a part of that world just a little longer.

Oh, and this year I joined a Fantasy Football league at work. I think it’s going to change the way I watch football this year and I’m pretty excited about that. I hope you guys liked this post of some of my favorite finds.

stolen idea

I’m completely stealing this blog idea – because I love it and let me tell you why.  I love the honesty of it and I’m continually looking for balance when it comes to my honesty here with you all and making sure that I’m not crossing into territory where I’m hurting someone’s feelings.  I’m sure other bloggers can empathize that when you’re blogging about your life, it can sometimes get compartmentalized and complicated.  I’m sure it’s much more freeing to blog about recipes and cooking or fitness.  What’s going on in my life drives this blog – good and bad (probably the reason for some lengthy absences).  I don’t want it to come off “Dear Diary” style but at the same time, it seems like when I’m writing from my heart, it’s less work to convey an idea and you all are more receptive.  So in the spirit of honesty, I give you the 3 Things I’m Bad At.

#1 Paying “silly” bills on time

Okay… I wrestled over including this one cause it makes me sound *so* immature.  But since we’re being truthful, I do have a few bills that I regularly don’t pay on time.  I know it’s not a good thing, guys.  Stuff like my cell bill, a store credit card (cringe), internet – those are bills that seem a little sillier than rent, car payment, CAR INSURANCE so I take a few liberties when getting those paid.  I know all bills are to be taken seriously and I’m in the process of trying to scale back the spending and tighten up on the whole budget thing.  The funny part about this is that I never feel more adult than I do when all my bills are paid.

#2 Openly correcting grammar

Okay, so I love proper spelling and grammar.  I’m sure I’ve abused it a time or two in the past – who hasn’t?!  I can tell you that I’ve gotten a lot better at knowing when to correct in mixed company (I used to be worse and way more annoying).  Sorry, family, you’ll always be fair game.  My eyes are trained to find the errors in PowerPoint presentations and in business situations I take people less seriously when something is misspelled.  I love the English language and I will be the first person to butcher it intentionally, so I’m really sorry in advance when I mutter “well” under my breath when someone says “he did good”, or “supposedly” when I hear “supposebly” or “essspresso” when I hear someone order “expresso” because truthfully, I have no right to do that.  Clearly, this is an ongoing area of opportunity for me.

#3 The follow-through

This one is probably the hardest and the most honest.  I start a lot of things I don’t finish.  I’m well aware through old adages and reading that this is an undesirable characteristic.  My resume includes diets I start and don’t finish, gyms I start and don’t commit to, books that lose my interest and end up back on the shelf, starting and stopping running about five times, leaving the last dish in the sink unwashed after doing alllll the other dishes, and not calling my family/friends as often as I should. There’s also the ideas that pop into my head randomly throughout the day of things I think I’d like to do.  Prime example: today I was thinking maybe I should make all the food I eat from scratch and eat nothing processed.  Let’s be honest, guys.  That’s a setup for immediate failure.  I can spin this a plethora of different ways, both positive and negative.  It doesn’t hinder my growth as a person but I really do this a lot.  I think it probably frustrates me more than anyone else (right, family?).

I believe we all have things we’re bad at.  And generally speaking, those are the things that cause us a bit of heartbreak, some bumps and bruises and leave us with some thicker skin.  Yes, a good portion of the time we’re the better for having gone through hard times.  That’s not always true, of course, but when I look back on times I thought were so hard they’d crush me I scratch my head wondering how I could have thought it was so bad.  The point is, if we start owning those things we’re bad at it becomes easier to embrace the unique person we are.  They don’t have to be defining characteristics… they can just be a smaller part of what makes up the whole.

stuff I love: music edition

I can’t even believe that for as much as I love music, I have yet to do a music-related blog entry.  I finally feel like I have some decent music taste so why not share it with you all?  (That was a little backhanded compliment to me, from me—did you see what I did there…)

I am drawn to music that I wouldn’t be able to make myself.  Granted, I can’t make music at all but I’m really drawn to the nuances in songs that take it from being only okay to being something truly magical.  Spotify is pretty much the best invention ever (I say that a lot, I think).  It completely changed the way I listen to music.  I used to have to rely on friends and the old standby, NPR, to find good new music.  While NPR is still trusty, Spotify recommends obscure bands that I may not have found on my own (and when I say “on my own” what I really mean is Under the Radar Magazine).  If you don’t have Spotify, I highly recommend you get it.  I happily pay for my subscription every month so I can listen to it outside wi-fi (like at work).  The picks below are just some of the songs/bands that would show up on my top plays because they’re on constantly.

Haerts,BRR,PacAir

From the top:

Haerts – Their song “Wings” has pretty much been on repeat since I found it.  It’s produced by St. Lucia (whom I love) and there’s the perfect mix of 80’s pop and synthy-electronic.  I don’t normally get into girl singers (cause I hold them to a higher standard when it comes to music – their voices all sound the same to me) but this girl is a mixture of The Bangles and Gwen Stefani.  I am really into it and I can’t wait till they release an EP or a full-length album because I want more!

Bronze Radio Return – Up, On & Over.  Amaze.  I can listen to this entire album which is a rarity for me.  They have a great mixture of twang, tambourine and banjo without being country.  It’s easily my go-to when I’m at work and I want something fun.

Pacific Air – I don’t remember how I found them.  I decided to give a listen recently and have been playing it often since.  I think it was the song Sunshine that converted me.  They’re kind of My Morning Jacket meets Temper Trap.

TroubleWillFindMe

The National – Obvi this had to be on here.  I started playing High Violet two years too late, so to say I eagerly anticipated this album would be an understatement.  Trouble Will Find me is the perfect follow up to an album I enjoyed so well.  I can’t stop listening to Humiliation and I Should Live in Salt (and Demons).  I think if I ever met Matt Berninger, I’d ask him what the heck he’s singing about.  I never have any idea.  For example, I recently read that Humiliation is about drones ruining a dinner party — I would have never guessed that.  Whether I know what he’s singing about or not, I love the melancholy sound and Matt Berninger’s baritone; it compliments the music, which itself is unfussy and stands on its own beautifully.

LordHuron,Fitz,Neighb,JB

Lord Huron – Lonesome Dreams.  This is another indie-country album that I can listen to from beginning to end.  There are a few surprises (the percussion is a really nice touch) and it just makes this album solid.

Fitz & the Tantrums – Okay, okay—I know all the cool kids have been listening to Fitz forevs but I’m just now getting on that train.  It’s a super fun summer album.  The Walker is heavy on repeat around here.  In the car with the windows down, in the apt while I’m cleaning; it’s catchy and gets stuck in my head.  Listen to it.

The Neighbourhood – Album: I Love You. Thank you NPR for this one!  Sweater Weather was the first song I heard and it’s probably number two in my Spotify top plays (after Wings, of course).  This album is hard to describe.  It doesn’t sound like anything I’ve listened to in a while cause it’s kind of hip-hop meets indie pop.  It’s produced really well and I was really surprised to like this album as much as I do.  Try it out so you can say you got in on the ground floor.

Jeff Buckley – Oldie but always good.  Grace is an album I can revisit time and time again—and I have recently.  Lover, You Should Have Come Over may be one of the best songs written (I know saying that is a tall order).  He just sings it with such conviction (as he does most of the songs on the album), raw passion and honesty.  Jeff Buckley was a huge talent and it’s easy to hear why.

whole30 surprises

The following is a list of things I didn’t expect to feel/see/happen while on the Whole30 (or as I like to call it, Paleo on steroids).

1. My skin actually is clear and glowing – and it’s obvious to other people.

2. I have a new appreciation for leftovers.  In a prior life, leftovers were my arch-nemesis.  Not so much anymore.

3. I totally CRASH at 9:30pm and sleep like a baby till about 5 a.m.

4. They weren’t kidding when they said it cuts down on the bloat.  I am not wearing NEAR as many layers as I usually do to hide in my clothes.

5. I miss beer more than I thought I would… and I’m not even a super drinker.  I just realized that some circumstances call for a nice, cool, refreshing beer and I have to go the sparkling water route.

6. I’ve grown rather fond of red and yellow peppers (not raw though – gross).

7. A lot of people are doing it.  Mostly a niche of adorable bloggers that enjoy running; I aspire to be like them.

8. I realized that a lot of things I ate were merely out of convenience.  I haven’t cooked like this for myself in about four years.  Bread was a filler and I didn’t eat nearly enough veggies.

9. I have actually completely changed how I eat and how I look at food.  Testament to that statement was the food day we had here at work recently.  My sense of smell was in overdrive, and I was whiffing all the chocolate, mint, cookies and other delicious sugary goodies.  While I wanted them so bad, I really didn’t.  My memory told me I did but my body was plenty happy from the fruit and protein I’d already had.  I have eaten these past 19 days for fuel and it’s felt great!

10. I feel amazing.  Truly.  The scale hasn’t reflected that so much but I have felt more energized, more focused, less moody – I’ve even felt stronger physically.  I didn’t believe the testimonials (cause at the time it seemed kind of fad-ish) but after battling headaches for the first few days, it’s been energy central since.  My clothes, you guys – my clothes, fit so much better.

11. I love meat.

12. I am starting to like plain tea (“plain” as in no milk and no sugar).

13. This is looking like a real-life lifestyle change, guys.