New Music

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Hello! Greetings from the road. Today is the last day of my exceptional summer vacation. There are stories to tell and pictures to share and my goodness I NEED to get back to the gym. Meanwhile, I heard this song on the radio yesterday. It was one of those rare moments when I switch off NPR and listen to commercial radio and heard this song. The World from the Side of the Moon album was released late last year from Philip Phillips, who apparently needs no introduction. The song is part country, part stalker, part desperate, and affiliated with a reality TV star. All perfectly good reasons for me to NOT like this song. However, near the end of the tune it turns all Thoreau. Which kind of makes it awesome. Sure it's a schizophrenic combination, but it may be that I just keep cranking it while I pack up and get ready to head home.

Currently | 07.18.2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

READING: Now that my library books have come in, I am almost done with Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. This is my second short essay novel of the summer and I find the format is a little easier for me to commit to. Also, in preparation for my trip this fall, I'm delving headlong into Rick Steves' Eastern Europe guidebook. Now that's exciting.

EATING: Zucchini. Every single day our garden pumps out a squash the size of my forearm. This week I've made chocolate zucchini bread and spicy turkey burgers. So so delicious. (You might be tempted to leave the mint out of the burgers, don't do it. Trust me on this one.) And now that I've learned how to properly freeze shredded zucchini I'm set for the next year.

WATCHING: Lately I've made a habit of matinee Monday. Except for a few gray hairs, the theater is usually empty. Which I like. This week I saw Fill the Voidmainly because I have a thing for films depicting religious communities. When I need a little bit of funny Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is making the Internet rounds. Which actually makes me think a couple things: 1. Where are they going for coffee? I mean they probably could have walked around the corner and called it a day. 2. Are they really driving around New York? Because I've driven in New York and apparently traffic doesn't move the same for us non-celebrity folk. 3. Where are all the female comedians? Come on, Jerry.

MAKING: Art and pickles. How's that for juxtaposition? Earlier this week I took a Pollock inspired painting class. It was a first for me and I never knew how fun flinging paint could be. Lately, my ambition for creative exploration outside my kitchen is growing. Tonight I'm taking an introduction to screen printing class; something I have wanted to do for years. On Sunday I made my first batch of dill pickles using some of the cucumbers from our garden and I can't wait to see/taste how they turned out.

EXCITED FOR:  Road trip! Tomorrow we leave for Utah. We'll be spending a few days with my family and then heading to Bear Lake for a reunion with some of my college friends. I'll be gone about 10 days, so this space may get a little quiet. Meanwhile, leave a comment and tell me what you've been up to lately.

Music Monday: Bombadil

Monday, July 15, 2013

Remember the first time you discovered a band? Remember how you felt? Remember cuing your little boombox with a cassette tape and listened to the radio, fingers hovered over the record button? Waiting for that unmistakable first chord. Remember playing your favorite song on repeat? Ad nauseum. But in a good way. Laying on your bedroom floor or dancing around the room like a maniac. Remember how you turned up the volume? Louder and LOUDER. Remember how you asked everyone if they had heard this song? And if they hadn't you played it for them. Then you discovered that this band of yours, the one you had posters of in your room, or stalked on social media, had other songs. Songs you didn't even know about. New (to you) songs. And you were like Whoa! Why didn't someone tell me about this sooner? But then it was okay, because you just started to listen to those songs too. On repeat. Over and over again.

Bombadil, the four-piece band from North Carolina, is exactly THAT band. Folk-pop that's been around for a few years, but still gets top billing in my mind. With a sound similar to the Avett Brothers and verging occasionally to the realm of steampunk, Bombadil has a style all their own. Their new album Metrics of Affection comes out next Tuesday, July 23. To tide you over until then, here are a couple songs I thing you will like. Feel free to press the replay button. I won't tell.

"So Many Ways to Die"


Everything I Want to Read is Already Checked Out

Thursday, July 11, 2013

After I finished reading Code Name Verity (sadly, not my favorite), I walked down the street to our neighborhood library to pick up a few items on my summer reading list. It's a short list, really. Maybe it was short because I knew I'd have to carry them home with me. Hmm. Also, I still have this ridiculous goal of reading two books a month in 2013. I mean that's a totally reasonable goal to make in January, but hey, it's already July, yo. Let's come back to reality.

While we're talking about libraries, I think self-checkout stations should be mandatory. Mandatory, I say. ALSO, I would like to be able to pick up my own holds without having to talk to another human being. Because we all know that storing my holds behind the counter isn't protecting anyone's privacy. Whatever. One last thing, fines are the devil. Particularly when I no longer get the no-fines-for-employees-perk anymore. Lame.

Where was I? Right, my summer reading list. Here's what I plan on reading just as soon as I can get my hands on them.

You Are a Badass Jen Sincero

Love with a Chance of Drowning Torre DeRoche (memoirs just get me)

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls David Sedaris (comedic gold)

The Illusion of Separateness Simon Van Booy

To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee (which I read annually every August)

Camping Like a Boss

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Last week we went camping. Wait, make that CAMPING, for the 4th of July. I haven't always loved sleeping under the stars. As a youngster my family camped a lot because that's what you do when you have a family of seven. Not to mention all the church camps and Girl Scout camps I endured. In fact, I remember thinking that summer was just one big long dirty camping trip. And I was not happy about that. One summer I even found out that our family dog had died...while, you guessed it, I was at camp. I was miserable. Except for the food. I always loved the food. Looking back, like a lot things we are forced to do as a kid, I now have a greater appreciation for it as an adult. Go figure.

When Ken and I were dating I bought a burnt orange tent and we went camping together on two different occasions. Ken, being the great planner he is, put together this comprehensive list of everything we could ever possibly need to pack. And it came in so handy this last trip. Proper planning is key to camping like a boss. That, and NOT camping in the rain. Since this was our first camping trip as a married couple I was really excited to enjoy our mini-vacation together. We decided to camp at Lake of the Ozarks so that Ken's brother's family, that live in Wichita, could meet up with us at the park. It was a win-win.

Camping, as you might know, can be a bit of a gamble. But we ended up with a great site that had plenty of shade and lots of space between us and our neighbors. The weather was also brilliant and I reaffirmed my love of ear plugs. Ohh, aaaaaand we used chocolate covered Belgian waffle cookies for our s'mores. BAM!

One night as I sat watching hundreds of fireflies twinkle in the twilight air, I felt a great calm and peace flow over me. I started to breathe deeper and savor that specific moment. Returning to nature and disconnecting for a couple of days did my soul a great deal of good. I hope we get to go camping a few more times before the summer is out. Also, I've officially decided that we must must MUST install a hammock in our home.
Images by me.

Missouri Adventures: Daniel Boone Burial Site

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Last week, on my way home from berry picking, I saw a sign for the Daniel Boone Burial Site in Marthasville, Missouri. Are you kidding me, I thought, An adventure within an adventure? YES. My detour took me down a country road, running parallel to another section of the Katy Trail. Sweet mimosas scented the air and rich rural vistas made my heart swell. I stopped by what looked like Mr. Boone's original homestead, only to discover that the land had belonged to his wife, Rebecca. One of the volunteers I spoke with informed me that the area was currently being restored, complete with a replica school house, barn, and newly installed Bed & Breakfast. While the burial grounds were open, the rest of the site is scheduled to open to the public later this year.

Images by me. 

Music Monday: Jukebox The Ghost

Monday, July 8, 2013

Sometimes I feel like I'm the last one to the party. Musically, that is. Like a kid sister, tagging along, shouting Hey! Wait for me. This weekly feature is one of the ways I try to keep up. Exploring new sounds and vetting  good music to share with you. Hopefully, at least occasionally, you find something you like.

The three man band that make up Jukebox The Ghost are known for "juxtaposing dark lyrics with upbeat music." Which takes some talent. Their 2012 album Safe Travels has received a lot of positive press, so you may have already heard of them. Yesterday the group released their new music video for "Oh, Emily," which incorporates bucket drumming, mannequins, and fans busting out a dance party. Since I couldn't decide on just one song today, you get two. You're welcome.

"Somebody" from Safe Travels

"Schizophrenia" from Everything Under the Sun

Berry Picking 101

Sometimes I fantasize that I am Anne; picking apples, without a care in the world. It happens. Luckily pick-your-own farms are the perfect antidote for returning to simpler times, where it's easy to romanticize farm life.

As a child I picked apricots with my grandma. In college I worked for a woman that let me climb her sprawling pear tree and cart off as much fruit as I wanted. A few years ago I started making regular trips to pick-your-own farms. First in Maryland and now in Missouri. This tradition has become one of my favorite summertime activities and I usually make 3-4 visits to various farms throughout the summer. If you've never picked your own fruit here are a few tips to help get you started.

1. Call Ahead—Most farms have a recorded telephone message that lets you know what is available for picking on the day you plan to visit. This is especially helpful since you'll likely invest some time driving out to the farm. Door-to-door, the entire trip usually takes me 3-4 hours (which varies depending on location).

2. Go EarlyEnjoy fewer crowds and cooler temperatures by getting to the farm early in the day. One time I arrived at a farm an hour before they opened; fortunately the staff let me into the blackberry patch without any fuss.

3. Be PreparedLike any other short outing it's important to be prepared. A water bottle, sunscreen, and a hat are all you need. In addition, you can also take your own container or you can purchase one for a nominal fee.  

4. Ripe and ReadyUnless you are picking peaches you'll want to pick ripe fruit. Berries should pull off the stem with little effort. If you have to tug at them they aren't ready yet. Apples and peaches should be firm and bright with color. Remove them from the branch with a clockwise twist of the wrist. Cherries should have dark flesh and should be harvested with their stem on to preserve freshness.

5. Sample AwayPart of the fun of pick-your-own produce is tasting what you've picked. I generally pop a few unwashed berries into my mouth or eat an apple while wandering through the orchard. There are no rules against this and it might even persuade you to pick more than you otherwise would have.

6. Pick with Purpose—Before you pick six quarts of blueberries or 40 pounds of apples it's a good idea to know how you plan on using them. (I like to make jam, pies, cakes, smoothies, and applesauce with my haul.) Also, be sure to lift leaves and poke around to get at ripe fruit that isn't readily apparent. Once you get into a rhythm it's easy to ignore what's going on around you.

7. Store Smart— Remember: fresh produce, without grocery store preservatives, has a short shelf life. Berries should be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days. Do not wash berries until immediately before using them. If you don't plan on using them right away, wash the berries and spread them on a cookie sheet and freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight. Use a spatula and transfer the berries to a plastic freezer bag or container. Peaches, plums, and other stone fruit can be peeled, sliced and frozen the same way. Finally, apples can keep in the refrigerator for up to three months.

Sometimes it's easy to imagine that pick-your-own produce saves you money. In reality, this isn't 100% accurate. Despite this, the experience of harvesting my own produce and returning to the land, if only for a few hours, makes up the difference. Besides, the taste of freshly picked produce will AMAZE your taste buds. Seriously. You may never go back to grocery store seconds.

Images by me.

Currently | 07.03.2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Summer is in full swing and I'll let you in on a little secret—together, Summer and I are having a full on love affair. It's giddy and exciting and full of possibility. And here's what I've been up to lately.

READING: Let's pretend I'm reading the book club selection for the month, shall we? Instead I'm actually re-reading the beloved classic Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. If I can't go to the beach, I'll just have to experience it à la gorgeous language and vivid imaginations. 

EATING: Roasted veggies. Lots and lots of roasted veggies. Sometimes with pesto or hummus or quinoa or just plain 'ol plain. My favorite combination is beets, drizzled in olive oil and seasoned with kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper, roasted for 30 minutes at 425°— tastes just like candy...only better.  

WATCHING: This creative clip on how one author makes picture books. (Thanks Gail.) Also, last week I watched this remarkable documentary about Father Mychal Judge, the compassionate and inspiring Saint of 9/11. It's available on Netflix, which means you should really watch it. Like RIGHT NOW. Finally, my amazing feminist husband came across this clever marketing campaign aimed at young girls. Brilliant.    

EXCITED FOR: Camping. Let me say that again. CAMPING. Lake of the Ozarks here we come! I can't wait to set up our hammock and make fancy s'mores with our new extendable roasting forks. Not to mention sleeping under the stars and bike rides. That's what I call summertime magic, friends. Stay tuned for a full recap next week. Happy 4th of July everyone!  

Missouri Adventures: Biking the Katy Trail

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Katy Trail State Park was once the rail bed of the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas railroad (MKT or Katy). The first Katy train rolled through St. Charles, Missouri on April 1, 1894. Once the new segment was opened a passenger could ride "The Katy" all the way from St. Louis to Galveston, Texas.  During the 1903 flood, boxcars were placed on the tracks to prevent the wooden ties from floating up and destroying the tracks.

In 1921, thieves stole $110,000 from the St. Charles Katy depot in one of the largest station and mail robberies in U.S. history. After World War II, highway travel became more popular than rail travel. Katy's ridership slowed until passenger service was discontinued in 1956. By the 1970s, the Katy railroad was to small to compete with larger rail companies. On April 11, 1986 the last Katy train rode the tracks to St. Louis.

Restoration of St. Charles began in the 1960s and today over 100 mostly brick historic buildings are within St. Charles' historic district. The area is best know for its Christmas Traditions festival that runs from the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas Eve.

Today the Katy Trail stretches 237 miles, crossing nearly the entire length of Missouri (from Clinton to Machens). Over half of it follows Louis and Clark's path up the Missouri River. Its crushed limestone path is ideal for hiking, cycling, or running and is wide enough to accommodate several outdoor enthusiasts at once. The flat surface and sweeping vistas made our 20 mile ride so enjoyable. Of course it didn't hurt that the weather for our last-minute day trip was ideal. It was the perfect way to spend a summer Saturday and I can't wait to explore other sections of the trail and see what it's like during different seasons of the year.

Historical account taken from trail information plaques and the Katy Trail Missouri website. All images by me. 

Music Monday: All that Jazz

I feel in love with jazz music in my early 20s. Though I can't recall how I ended up volunteering for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival, I mark that moment as my gateway into jazz; when, after hearing the beat of a passionate xylophone riff, I was hooked. This is what living sounds like, I thought. After that I listened to jazz aficionado and radio host Steve Williams on a nightly basis. Together we'd drive around Salt Lake City and I would scribble down artist names between sets, hoping to expand my own jazz library. When I moved back to Washington, D.C. I discovered the Westminster Jazz church—where for $5 on a Friday night I could load up on soul food, claim a seat next to my black brothers and sisters, and swoon over lanky bass players and melt into tenor sax solos. It was one of my favorite ways to spend a Friday night. And I would often take friends with me whenever I could. Jazz, our uniquely American music, has the capacity to erase boundaries and bring folks together. Hearing live jazz music punches the breath out of me, and tastes that much sweeter when I inhale again. Jazz is both raw and romantic. While it isn't for everyone, I have it on good authority that God Loves Jazz, you know, just in case you needed further evidence that you ought to give the genre a second chance. Though I can't really claim a favorite album or artist, this Miles Davis rendition of It Never Entered My Mind gets played fairly regularly on my music rotation. 

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