Top 10 albums released since May 1985

Aaron and I spent much of the month of January mulling over music from our past and the present. What album and songs had the most influence on us growing up? How could we compare some of our favorite artists of today with those that filled our stereos as teenagers?

I believe that it’s nearly impossible to create a perfect list of albums that one considers the “best of the best” since their birthdate. But, since this post has been sitting in my drafts folder for over a month, I figured it was time to be bold and share my list with the world. So, with no further ado, here are my favorite albums that have come into being alongside me:

The Format – Interventions and Lullabies EP

Local artists + west coast sound = heart stolen. I fell in love with The Format as I started college and saw them perform several times. The lyrics coupled with the quirky voice of lead singer Nate Ruess cemented The Format was one of the most formative musical influences as I transitioned into adulthood.

Gnarles Barkley – St. Elsewhere

This album is a cornucopia of surprise. A shift from dark to playful to plain weird over the course of five minutes. And the beats. The beats.

Alanis Morissette – Jagged Little Pill

Jagged Little Pill was the first CD I purchased from Sam Goody’s (RIP Sam Goody’s). Not only did I nearly melt this album from listening to it so often, it was the first time I realized the power of an angry women. I oughta know.

Lost in the Trees – Past Life

Lost In The Trees was such a brilliant, captivating group of talent. It was crushing to see them end their run last year. But, the treasures they left behind are vast. It was difficult to select only one of their albums for this list. You can’t go wrong with any. This album in three words: haunting; raw; unearthing.

Dave Matthews Band – Before These Crowded Streets

I couldn’t possibly have a top 10 albums list without my boy Dave on it! Back in the days of AOL Instant Messenger, my AIM handle was “davegroupie101”. Others may argue that Under the Table and Dreaming is the group’s best album, but Before These Crowded Streets had the most impact on me. Trying to pick ONE song from this album to highlight was a daunting task. “Halloween”? Easily one of the best crank it up to 11 in the car and scream along with it songs. “Crush”? Yes, it’s time to take our clothes off together. While this clip of “Spoon” doesn’t feature Alanis Morissette like the album, this last track is both captivating and heartbreaking.

Mumford and Sons – Sigh No More

Where did Mumford and Sons come from so quickly? Again, another album that top-to-bottom has not a clunker. Besides their incredible gift of musical performance, I think the songwriting of Mumford and Songs makes them vastly superior to the rest of the fleet. From “Awake My Soul” – In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. And where you invest your love, you invest your life. Simple. Poignant.

Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

Another musical influence from recent life: Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have fused their geniuses together to create sounds that strike every inch of your body. And, they are from Durham! Similar to Mumford, the detail to words is so powerful and not to be glossed over.

TLC – CrazySexyCool

How could I not include T-Box, Left-Eye, and Chilli? This trio rocked my world as a young girl, particularly through this music video. Did I understand everything they were trying to convey in this song and overall album? Not quite. At least, not at that time. Again, this was a whole new way for me to see women embracing their voices, their sexuality, their power. And, it certainly made me avoid chasing waterfalls (at least, I would like to think it did).

The Rosebuds – Loud Planes Fly Low

Not that one ever wishes ill on a couple, but if everyone who ended their relationship made music like this, it may seem like a semi-reasonable request. Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp unpack their chaos and hurt on this album. It’s all about change. And, is that a bad thing? The album leaves you with no clear answer.

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Californication

I know the critics will point to Blood Sugar Sex Magick as THE RHCP album to make most top album lists. For me, Californication was the hook. As a young thing, I gravitated towards more pop style but began to seek out songs with edge: “Scar Tissue” was the gateway song for me on this album. This album brought me funk, incredible guitar/drum/bass playing, and Anthony Kiedis looking…well, hot.

Alright friends: what albums would be on your top ten list since you have been born into this world?

Vol II: Things that made me happy this week

I’m sticking with my series dedicated to little gems of what made me happy during the week. I found myself trying to stick mental post-it notes throughout the last few days in an effort to list them in this entry. We’ll see how I did…

Parks & Rec – Season 7 – now available on Netflix
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Doesn’t anything else need to be said? Frankly, no. What a freakin’ great show.

Homemade BBQ Sauce

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Look at that massive pile of sauce (there is tofu underneath there, I promise). Inspired to spend multiple hours in the kitchen last Sunday, I decided to make homemade BBQ sauce for the first time. Following the recipe below from Veganomicon, I whipped up this spicy, sweet, sultry mass of goodness. I was scraping down the pan so I could get all of it!

 

Backyard BBQ Sauce
Makes about 4 cups
Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped as finely as you can
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-once) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup molasses (I substituted maple syrup)
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I used agave nectar)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared yellow mustard (Dijon works too)
  • 2 teaspoons liquid smoke

Directions:
Preheat a saucepan over medium heat. lace the onions in the pan and saute in oil until browned (about 7 minutes). Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add all the other ingredients except the mustard and liquid smoke, and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat if the sauce begins to splatter everywhere. Add the mustard and liquid smoke, and taste for sweetness/sourness. Adjust the flavors if you think it’s necessary, and cook for 5 more minutes. If you like a smooth BBQ sauce, then puree it, but that’s not entirely necessary.

First race of the season

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Sponsored by the Trailheads, the Little River Trail Run on January 16 turned out to be one the most beautiful mornings imaginable. While I still have yet to purchase actual trail shoes, I have fallen in love with trail running over the last year. Thanks to friends who open up my eyes to new places in our region, I have found such joy in romping through the woods, having to flex mental strength to pay attention and not wipe out over a root/rock/you name it.

We took on the challenging 10 mile course (although, per all of our GPS devices, it was closer to 9.5 miles total). The two days of raining prior to race day made the section near the river a scene from a Tough Mudder – people sliding, slipping, and splattering as we scrambled up and down the hilly trail.

I ended up finishing 10th in my age division with a time of 1:41:46 (10:11/mile), which is beyond expectations. I had ZERO goals in terms of timing. My only self-directive was to NOT GET HURT. I did fall – once – in the most graceful fashion I could manage, popping back up immediately and continuing forward. One of the best surprises of the race was running into (no pun intended) another friend who I ended up pacing with the last four miles for the course. That’s why I love running so much – building connections with others in this shared desire of achievement, of fulfillment, of success.

Double-date nights

Despite a disappointment experience at the newish Vegan Flava Cafe (you can read my Yelp review here), it was such a blast to go out with our friends Jon and Michelle. Who goes on double dates anymore?! We had the pleasure of taking on the 2 x 2 challenge before the holidays with another set of awesome friends Chelsea & Nic, more by accident than by intent.

The double-date needs to be a come back in 2016. While I love large gatherings, I find such fulfillment from these more intimate encounters. Despite the dining adventure not working out well, we all gave thumbs up to Bottle 501, another bottle shop/bar. Good vibe AND good prices – not always an easily-found combo.

#SOTU

Love it or hate it, Twitter has changed the game when it comes to national events including the State of the Union. I was glued more to my phone than to the actual television. The commentary, especially that made via the gif, was too good to not watch. The actual State of the Union speech was pretty good too. You can read the full transcript here. Here are a few of the highlights for me:

A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, different regions, different attitudes, different interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, fiercely, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t — it doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, it doesn’t work if we think that our political opponents are unpatriotic or trying to weaken America.

Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise or when even basic facts are contested or when we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get all the attention. And most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some special interest

and, of course, #ActOnClimate talk:

Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will be pretty lonely because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.

Vol I: 5 things that made me happy this week

As an homage to my “friends” at Pop Culture Happy Hour (oh, how I wish we were friends in real life!), I’m going to try and do a series of blog posts reflecting on aspects of my previous week that made me happy.

My friend Liza mentioned that one of her goals for 2016 was to “celebrate accomplishments in a more meaningful way.” What a brilliant idea! Most of us focus solely on our failures and mistakes and brush off accomplishments nonchalantly.

While “what is making me happy” may not fall under the definition of accomplishments, I hope it will serve as a positive reminder for me – and maybe you – that so much in our lives can and does bring us joy. Sometimes, we just forget about it.

  1. Old School Hip Hop jams

This actually started the night of New Year’s Day. In previous posts, I had noted that Aaron and I used to have some epic dance parties. Unfortunately, those had fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years. Then, 2016 happened. And, after some wine and a game of Scrabble, we threw down thanks to the power of YouTube bringing us some classic videos like these:

and:

The beats of ole kept on rolling this week thanks to a Spotify playlist (and the fact that my co-worker was 100% on board) on our trip back from the coast.

2. The return to public transit

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Driving was once one of my favorite activities. In the last few years, it has become a dreaded routine, and, some days feeling like survival of the fittest. With free WiFi and relative peace of mind, I was able to hop on one of GoTriangle’s regional transit buses both Thursday and Friday this week, giving me an extra hour where I could choose what to do: work, read, not have to worry that the driver next to me glued to their iPhone won’t nudge me into the guardrail.

3. Curling, eh?

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Yes, the Triangle has its own curling club (appropriately named the Triangle Curling Club). On Friday night, the group held an open house, offering some hands-on introduction to the sport of curling.

Note: it is MUCH harder than it looks. The power comes from that back leg pushing off a starting block. But, then you have to transfer all of your weight into your other leg, kept in a perfect 90 degree angle. Oh, and then you have to get this 44lb stone closest to the “shot rock” at the other end.

From the initial taste, we are hooked. We will be back, especially since it is just a hop, skip, and jump away from our home.

4.Reminder that some politicians are human

Not that I have doubted President Obama’s sense of compassion, but his speech this past week on taking executive action on curbing gun violence in our nation moved me immensely.

All of us should be able to work together to find a balance that declares the rest of our rights are also important — Second Amendment rights are important, but there are other rights that we care about as well. And we have to be able to balance them. Because our right to worship freely and safely –- that right was denied to Christians in Charleston, South Carolina.  And that was denied Jews in Kansas City. And that was denied Muslims in Chapel Hill, and Sikhs in Oak Creek.  They had rights, too.

Our right to peaceful assembly -– that right was robbed from moviegoers in Aurora and Lafayette. Our unalienable right to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness -– those rights were stripped from college students in Blacksburg and Santa Barbara, and from high schoolers at Columbine, and from first-graders in Newtown. First-graders. And from every family who never imagined that their loved one would be taken from our lives by a bullet from a gun.

And, the response to critics of President Obama’s emotional response during his speech from the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah was spot on:

5. To Read: Little Bee

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I finished Chris Cleave’s 2008 novel to start off the new year, and it was achingly beautiful and painful. It tells the story of two people, brought together by tragic circumstances, and how they unpack the history that led to their connection, and also how they move forward together…or not. Could I be more generic in the description? Probably. I don’t want to give anything away about Little Bee and her struggles and triumphs in this incredibly well-written story.

So, what’s making you happy this week?

Six things I am crushing on this week

To start with a bit of cruel irony: after noting in my post yesterday that I had yet to succumb to slipping on ice during any training runs, I was four-tenths of a mile into my 8 mile run and…you guessed it:

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I ate it. Luckily, I performed the classic Hollywood fall of my legs flying up in the air and landing on my butt.

After a quick curse word and a double-check of all limbs, I proceeded on to knock out the remaining 7.6 miles amid much more ice. It was a very jilted run in regards to my route – a lot of U-turns. And, sadly, this morning’s freezing rain will be pushing my run today to…this afternoon? To the “wish I could” history books? It’s March. It’s time for spring.

I feel compelled to touch on a variety of topics this morning, so I have opted for the infamous list post in order to fulfill my own whims. From literature to legumes, here are six things I am crushing on this week:

#1: Chickpea cutlets from Post Punk Kitchen

chickpea cutletsLike mini-chickpea burgers of love

In need of something meaty, crunchy, and delicious? These cutlets – with their hint of lemon – will rock your world. They are easy to make and require few ingredients: chickpeas (duh), wheat gluten, bread crumbs (I use Panko), some thyme/paprika/garlic/sage, a little lemon zest, soy sauce, olive oil – BOOM! You have a chewy plant-based steak. I have fried them both times (it’s all about that crunchy, baby), but baking the cutlets in the oven is an option as well. You can find the recipe here.

#2: Hot jams: Ibeyi, “Ibeyi”

ibeyiPhoto via NPR’s All Songs Considered blog

Twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz first blew my musical mind on NPR’s First Listen with then soon-to-be-released album Ibeyi. Their playful, sensual, and haunting French-Cuban ballads are enhancing and evocative. I immediately pre-ordered the album, which is NOW available for your listening pleasure! Right now, I have “Ghosts” on repeat, which is the third track.

#3: Sold – Patricia McCormicksoldPublished back in 2006, this novel explores the horrific world of child trafficking, in particular from Nepal to India. Through the eyes of Lakshmi, a 13-year old Nepalese girl, we journey with her as she is sold into the sex industry by her stepfather as his gambling habits have netted the family a debt they can no longer pay with their crops. It’s written in almost a verse format – short bursts of text tracing Lakshmi’s experience, her naivete, and her realization of her new reality. The novel is raw and unapologetic in telling her story – as is the story of thousands of young women in this part of the world. I highly recommend reading it, as it will educate and anger the reader (well, it did me). This was in my 2015 reading stack, and it was one I had difficulty putting down.

#4: Another glorious Costco find – red lentil pasta!

RotiniOh Costco – you did it again! Chocked full of protein and fiber, this red lentil pasta proved to be an excellent substitute to the standard durum flour variety. It doesn’t boast any overpowering flavor. We topped the noodles with a marinara sauce one night and a peanut/ginger curry a few nights later. Great texture and very filling.

#5:  Dreaming of house decorating

After abandoning Pinterest for the last month or two, I jumped back in headfirst on a quest to find barn doors. When Aaron first mentioned these as an idea to close off our dining room, I was a little on the fence. Barn doors? This coming from the woman who had burlap a plenty at her wedding, I know. But, I am now 150% on the hunt for a barn door-esque look for our dining room. Here are some that I have just fallen in love with:

barndoor4I also love the fact La Croix is in this photo

barndoor3Likely no animal head behind our future door…

barndoor2Does the dog come with the door?

barndoor1It just screams GREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEN

#6: The powerful medium that is Twitter

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Yes, tweeting road conditions in the Triangle may earn you five seconds of fame too. Twitter – from questioning dress colors (which I honestly did not follow nor care to follow) to breaking international news to chronicling a llama escape – this social media platform continues to amaze and bewilder me.

Alright, those are six things that I am sharing with you. Would you be kind enough to share something YOU are crushing on with me?

The List: Top Ten Destinations to Visit

A few months ago, Aaron and I were inspired to create a list of where in the world (is Carmen San Diego?) we wanted to go – money and time not a hinderance. This project idea arose during an episode of Anthony Bourdian’s “Parts Unknown” – one of the only TV shows we watch.

Aaron crafted the rules: it had to be either a state, city. country, or specific location within one of those (basically, no continents but we did clarify that Australia would be considered a country for this exercise); could include up to five “Honorable Mentions”; and the top ten places needed to be in preference order.

As seriously as studying for final exams, Aaron and I mused, scratched out, and let out gasps of “Of course!” as we each independently selected our places. About 10 minutes later, we revealed our lists to one another.

First, my five honorable mentions:

New Zeland

Sweden

Vancouver, Canada

Japan

Mississippi Delta (ok, I know this isn’t a “country” or “city” but AT let it slide)

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And then, the big reveal: the top 10 places I selected on this random day that I want to see before I leave this world:

10) Spain

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9) Yellowstone National Park

8) Czech Republic

7) Glacier National Monument (Alaska)

6) Norway

5) Savannah, Georgia

4) Greece

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3) Germany

2) Hawaii

1) Ireland

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Aaron’s list had some similarities and a couple of ones from left field (Egypt!). Our overlaps were on Ireland, Hawaii, Greece, Alaska, and Spain.

Well, time to pack.

5 Firsts

While this month has not only brought my new employment, which I still have yet to delve deeper into on this blog (but will soon), I have also had the pleasure to experience other events that have made this month absolutely fly by.

1) Pace a friend during a marathon

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Oh, dreaded mile 19, looming in the distance for the Rock N’ Roll Marathoners lumbering up another hill in the 26.2 grueling journey. In my own marathon experience, this is the exact spot I hit my wall. Poor Aaron, trying to take a photo while his tyrant partner growled, snarled, and demanded immediate hydration relief.

Taking on her second marathon, my friend Jessica mentioned that it would be nice to see a familiar face at this mile marker, to which I readily agreed to not only be there but would love to join her for the last leg. While the morning started out beautiful in downtown Raleigh, the rising sun cast an intense heat down, and many runners I watched looked worn out. As she bounded up the hill, Jessica looked amazingly agile and graceful for being 19 miles in and off we went, winding our back back to the finish line.

Alas, her wall turned out to be mile 21 in this race. But, with grit, determination, some bad jokes, and attempts to keep her mind off running, I ran with her until the Finish line was in view, making my way off the course (which confused onlookers – is that woman quitting NOW?!) and then running back to my car, to wrap up an (almost) half-marathon mileage day for me. I loved being a partner runner – the freedom of knowing you don’t have to do the whole race, and you get to celebrate and cheer on the accomplishments of others, almost from the driver’s seat.

2) Sampling my first vegan doughnut

Funny side note about this accomplishment: it actually took two attempts to be successful in acquiring said doughnut. The first time involved Aaron and I taking the “Bean to Biscuit” trail, getting our coffee and meandering to Rise Biscuits and Donuts for the infamous vegan doughnut (or donut – however you feel most comfortable spelling out this breakfast treat). Sadly, by the time we made it through the glass doors, they had sold out of all vegan doughnuts (minor pout session did occur).

Take two:

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Now, I’ve never been a person who craves doughnuts. Similar to cotton candy, I’ve often found the non-cake varieties to be less than satisfying. That being said, this lemon cake doughnut rocked. Dense, moist, with a light lemon flavor, slightly crunchy exterior and melt-in-your-mouth goodness. This was a great way to start last Thursday. Each day the vegan doughnut is a different offering, so one best believes, as Arnold says, I will be back.

3) Witnessed cats treating each other with kindness.

IMAG1665Perhaps a slight exaggeration that it is a first time, but mutual cleaning between these two critters had been a rare sighting. During virus overload earlier this week, I had the opportunity to see this sweet sight, which warms a momma’s heart.

4) Cook with miso paste.

Where have you been all my life, sweet and wonderful paste?

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Surprise, surprise, another Oh She Glows cookbook recipe. Not only was this a ridiculously tasty meal, but I honestly did feel more energized after eating it. The combination of raw and cooked vegetables along with the incredible orange-miso dressing put this dish as a must in the meal rotation.

5) New bottle shop brings sweet surprisesIMG_20140411_181948The owner’s of Sam’s Quick Shop (aka beer mecca) opened a second store just 6 minutes from our current home: Sam’s Bottle Shop. On opening night, Aaron ventured out and brought home a thoughtful present, as we had attempted to plan a western NC getaway for my birthday weekend. Alas, nothing seemed to fit in the budget or schedule, so he brought western NC to me with the Bug Eyed Stout from Frog Level Brewing. It was only my second beer from the Waynesville microbrewery, and I thought it was a decent stout. Regardless, the gesture made my month.

Six more days of April left to enjoy, and we will certainly end this month on a bang. No more races until mid-May, which leaves additional weekend play time. This Saturday is the Pit’s annual NC Cuegrass Festival. While I won’t be partaking in the ‘cue portion, I will lap up the bluegrass like no one’s business.

Inspired by Jennie: 10 Things I Like About Myself

I can’t resist the lists.

In honor of her 100th blog post, my friend Jennie gifted us with ten of the 100 things she likes about herself, inspired by another blogger, Daile. Begin your homework: two more amazing bloggers to add to your reading repertoire.

Without further ado, Ms. Jennie and readers, I’ll share my list – with the hope that you will take up the quill and pen your own – whether as a comment or in your own blog post. It’s essentially a chain letter of positive thought, so unlike its 1990s counterparts full of death, disease, and YOU ONLY HAVE 24 HOURS OR NOTHING WILL HAPPEN directives.

1) My pinkie toes on both feet essentially ride on top of my fourth toes. Efficient little extremities.

2) I like to hang my mouth open in photos, especially those around beer:

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Image3) I have a great deal of self-motivation, which has allowed me to tackle challenges I thought insurmountable.

4) I have surrounded myself with people who make me: smarter, more compassionate, laugh, and love easily.

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Image5) I love that I love to read. And read. And read.

6) My spirit of adventure – whether to new destinations, attempting activities outside of my comfort zone, and even being willing to put my own need for control aside and give faith to someone else.

7) I can making purring sounds with both my tongue and my uvula. Take that, Spanish language trills and cats.

8) I can drop some slick lyrics and beats – has to be on the fly. Can’t think too much about it.

Image9) Oh, I will wear a costume. No just wear it – I will own it.

Image10. I love to give hugs: big, juicy, squeezy-hard hugs.

This is a great exercise for a Monday.

Alright – you’re turn! What 10 things do you like about yourself?