Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year in Review: 12 Photos

2011 in Words and Pictures:

This is only picture that I took in the entire month of January and I have no idea why. So please make up your own story, it is probably better than the truth.
In February I went and saw a certain Jon Bon Jovi in concert in Pittsburgh PA. I will have admit that I am a casual Bon Jovi listener, but my friends that I went with, are mega, know every single word to every single song, fans. I think I loved witnessing them in happy music bliss as much as the concert itself. And I have to say,  Mr. Bon Jovi loves his Jazz Hands (who knew?!). I also felt good about the decision that I made in 2006 not to move to Pittsburgh when I was given the chance. It is lovely town, just not right for me. The beautiful skyline:
In March I leaped tall buildings in a single bound. Actually, I went on a field trip for work to the NASA headquarters and ended up on the roof. Mother Ship, take me home!  

In April I finally made it to the Newseum with everyone's favorite baker, Michele, with one "L". It quickly became one of my favorite museums in DC. And I can get pretty judgy when it comes to museums. Thanks to Groupon, I am going back again in January!  It is one of the few museums in the area that charges admission, but it is definitely worth it! From the Hurricane Katrina exhibit:

I ran away for a solo trip to beach. A little red chair, a book, and myself. 
I ran away to Missouri. I ate Mexican food with Jen in Kansas and Amish pastries with The General in Southern MO. You think you have had Amish pastries, but if you haven't been to the Ozark Winds Bake Shop, then your Amish life experience isn't complete. I am thinking about starting a tour company to bring people down there. I am sure this will lead to world peace. Are you guys up for it? We can stop in little towns with names like Pumpkin Center.We also went and saw Mumford & Sons in concert and screamed (with our souls): And I will find strength in pain, and I will change my ways, I'll know my name as its called again.  BANJO!!
June honorable mentions: I started this blog, saw Wicked at the Kennedy Center, planted my garden, and Cafe Rio opened up in the DC area.

Speaking of Amish pastries, in July I went up to Lancaster Country, PA with some lovely friends. We ate pie and looked at 309586754 handmade quilts. And then we ate pie again. 
July honorable mentions:  a hootenanny with homemade BBQ sauce,  a banjo festival, Sweeney Todd at Wolf Trap,  Casablanca/NSO at Wolf Trap, and seeing Tibetan monks riding the Metro. 

My mom and dad came to visit. We did as many touristy things as we could think of. All Washingtonians will be glad to know that I taught them the most important DC rule: "Stand to right, walk on the left." We wandered down to Southern VA and walked in the footsteps of history. Yorktown Battlefield:
August honorable mentions: Mr. Bob Dylan, there was an earthquake AND a hurricane.

September was my month of music, I saw so many good bands, it is hard to pick one picture. So lets go with the best picture. That award goes to the Avett Brothers. They are crazy good live and not to pat myself on the back, but my pictures from that show are some of my favorites of all  year. To see more of my shots, see this post, or just ask me, I have like a billion.
August honorable mentions: going to Boston to see the Dropkick Murphys play at Fenway Park, eat a cannoli at Mike's, and get locked in the hotel bathroom, making jam for the first time ever, and  seeing live in concert: William Elliott Whitmore, The Low Anthem, Laura Marling, Dr. Dog, Flogging Molly.

October was a hard month. I had a bad day, Steve Jobs died, and we didn't win the Trunk or Treat contest. However, the Fall foliage was pretty magical.
October honorable mentions: seeing Pokely LaFarge in a basement, and carving a Death Star pumpkin.

Hello.  I mean, Bonjour. I want to France. The end. I know that I have posted this picture at least 3 times, but I love it so much.
November honorable mentions: Another great Pie Day, and seeing David Mayfield somersault onto the stage.

I had one of the best birthdays in a long time, party hats and all.
December honorable mentions: going home for Christmas.

 Adieu 2011. 2012, be nice to us, 'K?!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year Wish

So . . . New Years Resolutions.

With the last couple days of 2011 whizzing by I have been thinking about the new year, which naturally leads to resolutions. I usually joke about diligently making lists of resolutions and then diligently breaking every single one of them by the second week in January. But this year is going to be different. I am tired of making lists and inventories of all my weaknesses and faults and what ifs and then I will be happys and pie in the sky plans how to fix me. Enough.

In some cultures, instead of resolutions or goals or diet plans, people make new year wishes. I love that. I want to do that. So here is my wish and hope for 2012:

I wish to be strong and brave enough to abide all the change this year is going to bring.

You see, beneath it all, 2012 scares me. Like, sick to my stomach scares me.  I keep reminding myself of all the good things coming:  friends' weddings, queueing up in front of the taco stand by my sister's house, three concert tickets already patiently waiting on my bedroom mirror, and the return of perfect beach weekends. But along with the Mayan prediction that the world will end in this coming year, is the more reality based fact that my job will end, I will be unemployed sometime in the next 365 days. This is isn't a surprise, I knew all the small print when I signed away my soul. But as I turn over the calendar, that day is becoming more sooner than later. So here's to me being brave enough to see this as an opportunity to fall my heart. 

Hope smiles on the threshold of the year to come, whispering that it will be better.— Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Home According to My iPhone

I had decided not to go home for the holidays. Then I went to France, and my head cleared and I realized that I, indeed, wanted to be home for Christmas. So I bought last minute plane tickets home and threw some random things in a backpack.  I don't recommend this travel technique, but sometimes you just have to bite your lip and accept that is why credit cards were invented. 

I spent too brief of a time at my parents' house, watching Canadian home improvement shows, waking up to the smell of pancakes,  listening to family stories and digesting the best BBQ in the Milky Way. Joy to the World.

More Missouri clicks:
Christmas tree twinkles
 BBQ Happiness
 Building box towers for Boxing Day

 Three kinds of Roca? What.
 Lovely Midwest sunsets right outside our front door
 Christmas treats from old friends
 My Great Aunt Theresa's magical apron. I wore it to make a Christmas pie, and now we are all pretty invincible.
 Via The General, my family's batch wasn't done by the time I left. A holiday tradition from our California life.

Shopping at the Plaza . . .
  . . .for discounted ornaments at Halls Department Store. I got one shaped like a round of Gouda.
Making grilled sandwiches with leftover Christmas ham

I hope your holiday was picture perfect!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Days of Hipster Christmas: Day 12

We made it.

Happy Christmas Eve! On this last night of Hipster Christmas I wanted to share my very favorite Christmas hymn, "O Holy Night."  And since it is my favorite hymn I get to be picky about how I like it to be sung. My number one requirement is that is sung by a guy, a fella, one of the male persuasion. I think female singers tend to want to go too high at parts and it comes off as a little shrieky.

I am ok with performers adding a little of their own style to the song, that is the beauty of holiday music, it is how you, individually, interrupt the words and the feelings behind those words. Here are some of my favorite versions:

Josh Groban:


And to complete our eternal round, Sufjan Stevens:

Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Day 11

On the 11th Day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave me to: My Morning Jacket

Only 1 song today, I gots me places to be.

"I'll Be Home For Christmas" performed by My Morning Jacket, featuring The Head and the Heart. 1 great song sung by 2 great bands. Merry Christmas to us! Hopefully during this holiday season you will find someplace where the hugs are free and the pancakes are hot.

Just 'Cause Someone Did Ask

The birthday  hats left by the Nativity Scene are, obviously, for Baby Jesus and friends. I heard those wise men like to par-ty.

**they're actually left over from last week's birthday celebrations, we obviously like to party too, you know, in that 2nd grade kind of way. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

I'm Looking For Someone to Share In an Adventure . . .

If you please be so kind, let me geek out for a moment:

It is almost embarrassing how many times I have watched this trailer today. Almost.

The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are some of my dad’s favorite books and he passed along his affection for Tolkien to his children. We grew up with stories of hobbits, wizards and elves, and  the idea that even the most unassuming ones around us (and maybe even ourselves) can be braver than we think and do even greater and more amazing things then we can even now believe. 
And also, it may not be a good idea to talk to creepy people in caves.

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Day 10

On the 10th day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave to me Bright Eyes and Johnny Mathis

When I first heard that Bright Eyes  made a Christmas album a couple of years ago, I had  to stop and think about it. Sometimes Conor Oberst's voice is just so sad sounding, how would that translate into Christmas music? I quickly found out it that translates oh, so, well. "O Little Town of Bethlehem" is one of my favorites from my fellow Mid Westerners. 

Growing up it wasn’t Christmas until the Johnny Mathis cassette came out. Dedicated to the Ghost of Christmas Past, I give you, "Do You Hear What I Hear?"

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What I Ate In France

I loved going to a country where it was OK to eat bread.  And bread I did eat. Every day was an experiment on how many different combinations of cheese, bread, fruit and roasted veg I could do. The answer is many. I loved the simplicity and beauty of the food.  France is known for fancy food too (which I tried a little bit of), but I really couldn’t get over just how beautiful the fresh food was, and my favorite meals were actually the ones we cooked at our little maisonette.   We bought most of our food from the local farmer’s markets and prepared everything simply. A little roasting, a little oil and vinegar, salt and pepper, and that is all you need when the food can speak for itself. 

 My first French meal, half a baguette, some jam and a clementine. Not so fancy, but so, so filling, in body and spirit.
 A savory pie and a bit of cake from  German Peter, the husband of June, from June's bake shop at the St. Cyprien market. A perfect picnic until a duck started to freak me out.

 My beloved Pain du Chocolat

 The region is known for their walnuts, so I picked up a walnut cake at one of the markets, sauteed some apples, and voila!

For Thanksgiving we went to one of the 3 open restaurants in our little village. I wanted to try the local cuisine. 
Foie Gras: 

The now infamous steak tartare. When I ordered, I *thought* I knew what it was. I watch TV cooking shows all the time. This is what I got:
 Maybe, I would of tried it, if not for the raw egg. I mentally just couldn't do it. So for dessert I ordered whatever dessert had the most chocolate:

Bon Appetit!!

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Day 9

On the 9th day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave to me Bob Dylan and Patsy Raye & the Beatniks.

There seems to be some hoopla going around whether or not it is healthy to tell children about Santa, because, technically you are lying to them, and lying is bad. And stuff. And while I don't have any children, so heaven knows I don't have any authority on offspring matters, but all I have to say is that I am firmly on Team Santa. 

I don't remember when I "found out"about Santa. Apparently it wasn't a traumatic event. And I never saw  Santa as a lie my parents told me. Stories and fairy tales teach us lessons about the world, they're fun and they give us a little magic. And I would rather that Santa by the face of the commercialism of the season and not Jesus. 

So, for you, 2 Santa songs. 

"It Must Be Santa" by Bob Dylan. Yeah, Bob Dylan looking so old singing a Christmas song, is a little odd., but awesome at the same time.

"Beatnik's Wish" by Patsy Raye & The Beatniks. 1950s beatniks singing about Santa. That pretty much is the definition of awesome. Daddy-O.
So have we settled it? Santa=awesome. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Orange Crush

To me, there is nothing that brings more pure, na├»ve joy then peeling and eating an orange, or in this case, a clementine. The peeling, the unveiling, the eating segment by juicy segment.  And then, even after washing your hands, the citrus scent lingers on the fingertips. Love.

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Bonus Post!

I am not one of those people that gets all offended when people wish me Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. Christmas is a great holiday, I celebrate it, but it is not the only holiday in the month of December. That's just fact. Wishing someone Happy Holidays isn't invalidating any of the lovely holidays being celebrated, it just acknowledges that our little world is made up different and beautiful cultures and we are mature enough to allow people to celebrate (or not) which ever one(s) they choose. And it's an efficient time saver,  it saves us from actually taking the time to know about the lives of the people around us.

Today is the first day of Chanukah, and I asked a Jewish friend for some favorite songs that celebrate the festival of lights. He laughed and told me that Chanukah isn't known for this it's pop hits, but did finally offer the below three songs if I promised not to link to Senator's Hatch's song.

First, a more traditional song, Ma'oz Tzur, song by the ever enchanting PS 22 choir. The song is in Hebrew, but tells of different times that the Jewish people were saved.
This video reminded me of my second grade holiday program. I made my theatrical debut by holding the dreidel during "The Dreidel Song. Sadly, there is no video footage that performance. (Hooray for multicultural schools!)

Last year gave us"Candlelight" by the Maccabeats which is sung to the tune, "Dynamite" by Taio Cruz.

And you knewn this one one was coming: Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song.

12 Days of Holiday Hipster Music: Day 8

On the 8th day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave to me Thom Stone and The Grinch.

Thom Stone is a Manchester, England based singer/songwriter that comes from the same community that has given us Mumford & Sons, Laura Marling and various other polite British folks stars. But more important than his musical relationships is his wonderful soulful voice. It's so deep that you can fall into and just float for awhile. This month he released, "I Can't Spend Christmas Alone", which is available as a single on his bandcamp page.

And since I started with a song you probably haven't heard of, let's switch gears and move to one that you have of. "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch was written for the 1966 cartoon special, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas, lyrics of course, were written by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Giesel), the music was composed by Albert Hague and it was sung by  Thurl Ravenscroft, who was also the deep voice behind Tony the Tiger.  "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," is classic, one you must, must turn up on the rare occasion that it comes on any of their radio stations that play holiday music. It also gives you plenty of adjectives to use in your head about the mean people in your life: You're a three-decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce! There are at least 35 different cover versions of the song, but like most things, the original outshines them all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pros and Cons of a Monday

Pro: Empty train car this morning!
Con: the train car was empty because I was laaate.

Pro: Black olives in the salad bar at work!
Con: the pushy guy behind me at the salad bar. Look, khaki wearing man, I am going as fast as I can. Don’t rush me, or I will stand here and pick out just the red peppers, one by one, from the pepper mix.

Pro: 4 day work week!
Con: I have to work 4 days.

Pro: Reading Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby on the train home
Con: getting motion sickness while reading  Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby on the train home.

Pro: Eating leftover birthday Strawberry Almond Goat Cheese cheesecake for dessert
Con: before the great dessert was a dinner of Ramen Noodles and V-8. (I'm trying to clean out my cupboards/not buy anymore food before the holiday break).

I hope there are more pros than cons for you during this holiday countdown week!

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Day 7

On the 7th day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave me: Otis Redding and Okkevil River.

I feel super duper clever about the paring of today's songs.

"White Christmas" by Otis Redding is usually, what am I saying, is always, on top Christmas songs lists, and for good reason. It is Otis Redding. The end. (p.s. fingers crossed for a real white Christmas! But on the 25th and not travel days. )

Our second selection is, are you ready to feel the wrath of my cleverness?, "Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas" by Okkevil River. Okkevil River a great band from the indie music hot spot of Austin Texas, with obviously great taste in holiday music. I also recommend all their non holiday music, their album, The Stage Names, is in heavy rotation between my ears.
I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas
Otis Redding
(various albums)

Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas
Okkevil River
Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See (isn't this a great album title/life advice?)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Day 6

On the sixth day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave to me: Coldplay and John Denver.

I was talking to a friend today and had to admit that it doesn't fell like Christmas yet. Sure, I have eaten plenty of cookies, driven past houses with twinkling lights, and listen to (and post) a lot of holiday music, but there is just something still missing. Then "Christmas Lights" from Coldplay came on my shuffle, and I realized that what it is missing is the people. I may try hard, but I don't think it will completely feel like Christmas until I am home, like home home, and not just where I sleep every night. Complete with my mom telling me to take my vitamins.

Growing up I always thought cowboys were just in old movies.  Oh, did I mentioned that I grew up in LA? I didn't realize that there were actual people who wore cowboy boots and hats, like everyday. Now I have many friends that come from cowboy states and even cowboy families and go to rodeos and everything. The cowboy is such rooted in Americana, that it is no wonder that we have many cowboy Christmas songs. "Christmas for Cowboys" by John Denver is one of my favorites. Maybe because I always connect John Denver with the Muppets, or maybe because it just a lovely song.
Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights (released as a single)

Christmas for Cowboys
John Denver
Rocky Mountain Christmas

Saturday, December 17, 2011

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Day 5

On the fifth day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave to me: FIVE GOLDEN RINGS! That was always my favorite part of the song when I was a kid so I would always yell it really loud. Maybe, sometimes I still do.

But instead of golden rings which I am allergic to (true story) here are nice tunes by Megafun and Louis Armstrong.

The first song, "I Saw Three Ships," is from North Carolina roots ramblers, Megafun. I think it perfect for this cold Saturday, 'cause there is nothing that can warm you up like a little banjo. Also, a good pair of socks.

You can download this song for FREE, along with several other nice little holiday numbers on I'll be Hometapes for the Holidays.

Song number two is "Cool Yule" by  Mr. Satchmo, himself. When I was in college I took a History of Jazz class. Our teacher was trumpet player which means that we listened to a lot of Louis Armstrong. Best use of tuition money, ever. Oh, that voice!

Words: Wisdom

“The more you struggle to live, the less you live. Give up the notion that you must be sure of what you are doing. Instead, surrender to what is real within you, for that alone is sure….you are above everything distressing.”


French style.

I still don't understand why all the STOP signs were in English.

The Eiffel Tower at midnight in the fog is one of the most amazing things I have every seen

12 Days of Hipster Holiday Music: Day 4

So, this is a tad late, but sometimes you have to go out and live your life so you can blog about it. And tonight that included eating crepes with some pretty amazing people.

Back to the show:

On the fourth day of Hipster Christmas my true love gave to me The Pogues and Matthew and the Atlas:

I decided to do something a little different and a little the same, today. Instead of posting two different songs, here is the same great song sung by two amazing bands. I completely adore both versions and couldn't pick one over the other. 

The Pogues who originally performed "Fairytale of New York,"are an Irish band that formed in the early 1980s, fronted by Shane MacGowan, who, random bit of holiday trivia, was born on Christmas Day.  So everyone, it is time to sing along:

I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

The second version of the song is performed by Matthew and the Atlas who I had the great opportunity to see live twice this  year, and who may or may not have broken up this week.

 Thank you all for all your fine comments of my 12 days of music so far, I am having a lot of fun with it, and I hope that you have or will find a new song or two that fills you with holiday cheer!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Birthday

In years past I avoided my birthday like an ostrich with the plague. But this year, I am learning that celebrating the day I crash landed on earth can be OK, if not, if I can be so bold, the bee's knees.