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I suppose the general trend is to do a year summary post before the new year begins, but better a day late than never, right? 


This past year was one for the books. I rang in the New Year in Chicago and my Twenty-Third Year in New Orleans. I also went to New York (twice), Baltimore, Manchester, Nashville, Hilton Head, and Destin. I saw The National (twice, once at my very favorite venue), Bob Dylan (twice, once in VIP where I almost died of excitement), Wilco (twice, sensing a trend?), Passion Pit, the XX, Local Natives, Phosphorescent, The Lumineers, David Byrne & St. Vincent, and many, many more. I was less than a football field’s length from Paul McCartney, and I got to sing Let it Be surrounded by some of my very favorite people in the universe (oh, and now I get Beatle Mania. I was about to faint too.). I adopted a puppy who is, at this very moment, snuggled next to me breathing soft, sleepy puppy breaths onto my keyboard. I spent a magical Valentine’s Day at Hot & Hot Fish Club. I drank (many) bottles of incredible wine.


The thing that all of this list-making and accomplishment-accruing doesn’t really account for though, is that 2013 was a bitch. All of the end of the year Facebook statuses (stati? statum?) and blog posts make me feel a bit lousy, but then I realized: any year can seem incredible in a highlight reel. The reality (for me, at least), is that the day-to-day, three-hundred-and-sixty-five living of a year is messy, unpredictable, and sometimes just downright difficult.


It’s also lovely, wonderful, and full incredible things, of course, but this isn’t always quite as apparent.


I think it’s these difficult things that make us want to make resolutions to be healthier, happier, and wiser. I know many people who scoff at the idea of New Years’ resolutions–I’m sure that if it could be calculated, the percentage of people who actually accomplish what they set out to would be positively minuscule–but I don’t think it’s the making of the resolutions that really matters.


The magic of a New Year is the hope of a fresh start, a clean slate (or iPad I suppose, though that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it).


This year I want to read more than I watch television. I want to eat more kale than bacon. I want to sit and listen to albums from start to finish. I want to love excellently. I want to speak kindly. I want to learn how to do the splits.


Despite my best efforts, 2014 is going to be just as difficult, messy, and unpredictable as this past year, but you know what?


I can’t wait.

Phenomenal Millenials

The millennial generation–and I’m not hating, because these are my people–has a strange way of taking something completely ordinary and turning it into a full blown phenomenon.

Take mustaches, for example: once upon a time, mustaches were simply a thing of uncles and the 80’s. Nothing of note, particularly, just a peculiar facial hair fashion. Now, mustaches are everywhere. They’re on pencils, backpacks, mugs, shoes, scarves, flasks…you name it, I can find it at Urban Outfitters. Start ’em young with a mustache onesie if you’re so inclined. In a quick Google search, I found over 500 unique mustache onesies. Now that’s what I like to call options.

Over the last few years, people have turned to nature to nurture this obsessive compulsive complex. Pumpkin is the new mustache. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes have reached beverage fame, and almost every brewery and doughnut shop release a special pumpkin flavored treat. Mars, Inc. even reported recently, via the NYTimes, that they are releasing Pumpkin M&Ms citing “strong popularity among millennials” as the primary reason for the new candy. Sales of last years pumpkin products–none of this, understand, are ACTUAL pumpkins–was over $290 million in the United States alone. That’s a lot of pumpkin flavoring, folks.

In this rush on pumpkin, I feel that the other varieties of squash have been grossly underrepresented. Pumpkin had its heyday, and now it is time to move forward…

To butternut squash.IMG_1383

I have created the most amazing sandwich. I didn’t really create it, so much look desperately into my almost empty fridge and try my best to make something edible, but it turned out pretty great if I do say so myself. Juse take a butternut squash, roast it, then mash it up. Toast two pieces of bread, spread some pesto, sun dried tomatoes, and few flakes of parmesan cheese and the butternut squash on them and BOOM! you just made the best sandwich of your life.


I wouldn’t normally encourage others to follow my cooking advice (I’ve been known to start more than a few fires. One time I actually had my entire building evacuated when I attempted to cook brownies, but that’s a whole different story for a whole different time), but since this one involves only limited oven time, I’d say you’re safe.

So let’s start a new craze! Butternut squash shaped flasks, anyone?

The Velvet Pants of Sweet Baby Jesus

Everybody has one good story.

It’s the story you pull out of your pocket at a party just when everyone’s resorted to talking about the food in just a little bit too much detail, or on a first date when things are headed south after you discover the only thing you two have in common is a mutual appreciation of the bread basket. It’s the sexy little black dress of a story that hugs your curves just a little too much; the story that, were it a player in MLB, would be batting a thousand.

This, my friends, is my That Story.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Once, in France, (kind of a pretentious opener, but stay with me) I went to a Food & Wine Exhibition (even more pretentious, right? It gets better). Really, “Food Exhibition” is simply another name for “I’m About To Head Back To the States So I Will Stuff My Face Like A Duck Destined For Paté,” it just flows better. My roommate, Katelyn, and I scurried up and down the aisles snacking on paté, cheese, olives, oysters, sweet breads, sour breads, chicken, sausage…you name it, we ate it. There was wine at this exhibition as well, but we didn’t get the courage up to ask for a tasting until a particularly rich (read: nasty) serving of paté.

We traipsed up and down the aisles, trying frantically to find something to get the awful taste of duck fat out of our mouths while simultaneously exuding a rich and wine-buyer-ly aura. After the first few stops we’d perfected our technique, and effectively slurped and sniffed our way through the vins de France.


Finally, quite a few tastings later, we stopped by a booth manned by an older husband and wife team. He spotted the American in us immediately—presumably it was our giggles, accents, and general lack of self-restraint, which pretty much serves as an Old Glory tattoo on one’s forehead—and jovially invited us over, “Try my wvinne!” he said. We, of course, were happy to oblige.  While we were tasting, he prodded us about life back home (he had a great-nephew once removed living in Idaho, you see, and was curious if we had ever met him). When I told him I was from Alabama he got a twinkle in his eye, threw up his arms, and exclaimed (as if it was the most splendid thing to happen all day) “Ahhhhhh!! Tu est une raciste!!!”

Ahhhhh!! You are a racist!!

Though he seemed just tickled at the idea, I quickly demurred—“Non, non, non, non, non”—but he winked at me and grinned as if to say, “oh oui, bien sur, just our leettle racist secret.”

Now that we had this kinship, my sweet old racist wine man decided that we were up for the primo stuff.

He leaned in close between us and whispered, “do you vant to try the best wvine mademoiselles?” Well of course, we wanted the good wine! Bring it on! He dug a bottle out from the bottom of a tattered blue cooler in the back of his tent, and poured two heaping glasses. We swirled, sniffed, and slurped obligingly.

He motioned us in again and said in a stage whisper, “it’s like zee velvet pants of svweet baby Jesus.”

Um, right, yes just precisely what I was thinking. The velvet pants of sweet baby Jesus. NAIL ON THE HEAD.

So, if you ever need a new way to describe your favorite wine, I’ve got you covered.


Forget blasé things like dry/acidic/fruity/nutty: look for notes of sweet baby Jesus’ velvet pants.

The Many Dangers of Joining a Book Club

Last December, I blithely decided to join a book club I saw advertised in Starbucks.  The poster was perfectly on-point to rope me in: “Book Club Looking For Members: wine-loving student preferred.” As I’m nothing if not a wine-adoring, book-loving student, I was in with both feet, arms, legs, and my entire bank account (which, to be fair, isn’t really saying that much).

Fast forward to January 4, and I’ve finally gotten up the initiative to send the email after discussing at length with anyone who will listed why this is the best thing to happen to me, ever. I’ve always wanted to be in a book club, see, since I was in first grade and my best friend Elizabeth and I would sneak into her attic and read Pride & Prejudice (I was quite the rebellious youngster).

I receive an email back the same day, and the author sounds lovely. The email is in my favorite font (Georgia) with my favorite valediction (warmly), and she (Laken) seems like the perfect curator for a book club. She’s more type-A than I could ever dream of, and has made a short survey to “gauge my interest” that asks normal things such as nights when I’m free, books that I like, and what I think the first book we read as a group should be. Though I am not a perfectionist, I am most definitely an overachiever, and so I spend an inordinate amount of time making sure that my answers are absolutely, perfectly cool.

Ten nail-biting days later, and I have a response. The email, sent out to a list of undisclosed recipients, says that I have been accepted to the book club and that the book of the month will be Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which was totally my suggestion and that we will meet on January 29 at 6pm. Coincidentally, I’d inhaled it weeks before and could think of nothing better than sitting around with a glass of wine and my best friends that I didn’t quite know yet.

On to January 29, the fateful evening.  Six o’clock, in the dead of winter, means in nowhere Alabama that it is already completely dark and eerily much silent. I’m driving along, headlights on, following my GPS and singing along to Bob Dylan. I sail past fast food restaurants, pet supply stores, home depot, walmart, KFC until quite suddenly, I’m around absolutely nothing. Dead silence. No comforting neon lights. My next landmark, a trailer park with one lone light-pole, does little to assuage the uneasy feeling that is slowly creeping down my throat and settling in the pit of my stomach. I’m sure it will get nicer soon, I think, expecting a cheery neighborhood with a welcoming wooden sign, to pop up around the next deserted corner. Instead, I find, 15 minutes and several run-down shacks later, an abandoned dirt road, which my GPS is cheerily demanding that I take a left onto. This road, I should stress, has absolutely no lights and no concrete. It would be more fitting to call it a path, a path into the unlit wilderness.

Suddenly, the book on the seat has a new meaning. Gone Girl is no longer the thriller I had been so excited to discuss, but a rather foreboding omen.  I am the gone girl. I am sweating, my hands are shaking, and I can hear my heart thump, thump, thumping in my ears as I call my boyfriend. “The house is in the middle of nowhere and I don’t know where I am and I am afraid that the book is a sign and I’ve never met any of these people and what am I thinking this was a terrible idea,” I’m expecting him to say don’t be silly, you’re making these things up (I can be terribly skittish, you see, so there is the possibility that these ladies were not the ax murderers I believed them to be). However, he seems almost as concerned as I am when I tell him that I am in the middle of the woods, not in a subdivision as one would think. “She would have told you that it was in the middle of nowhere, if this was legitimate” he reasoned, and this sage advice was enough to make me turn straight around and head home.

But I’ve looked forward to this for so long; I must be imagining things. I’m sure once I turn down the unlit dirt path, the house will be well-lit and beautiful; they just haven’t gotten around to sprucing up the entrance.

So I do another u-turn, screw up every ounce of courage that exists in my convulsing body, and head once more down the dark, dark highway in search of the “road.” I find it, turn onto it, and see the house my GPS indicates. It’s a little shack with only two cars parked out front, and one light on inside. The curtains look like moth-eaten grandmother lace, and slats are falling off of the front.

I yelp, do the quickest u-turn known to man, and high-tail it home.

After I am safely in the confines of my boyfriend’s apartment, I tell the tale and we settle in for dinner. Suddenly he runs to the window, and looks back at me in fear: “There’s a group of girls outside, and they’re burning a huge pile of books!” he yells. I blanche.

“Just kidding.”

But it isn’t a joking matter, my friends, because that is the true story of how I was almost a real gone girl.


Looks Like Tomorrow Is Coming On Fast

I sat in this same building half-a-decade ago (that sounds so much statelier than five years, don’t you think?), a rather unwilling violist in the Alabama All-State Orchestra.  I’d put much less thought in the ensemble than my outfit: tight bell-bottoms and a perfectly worn Dylan tee. I wiggled, squirmed, made eyes at the curly haired bassist behind me—who later serenaded me with Desolation Row—and thought mainly about my chances of scoring the much-coveted Oreos on our next break

1,825 days (and a few boys) later, and I’m still fidgeting, wiggling, and making eyes via emoticon at my main squeeze while learning about Ghanaian drumming. It’s a different boy now, still curly headed.  A different kind of love, too: still puppy-eyed and gooey, but better then I could have dreamt when I was a very angst-y sixteen (I blame it on Bob).  My application for graduation was accepted today: the day has come despite many last minute scrambles which often made me doubt its probability (or for that matter, possibility).

Time has moved a bit too unwaveringly for my taste.  I’ve since collected many more Dylan shirts from many more shows, backpacked through Europe, lived in five different apartments with eleven different roommates, and survived a semester studying solo in France.  Often, my to-do list grows so daunting that I forget to look at what I’ve done; however, as graduation looms and avoiding it is becoming increasingly impossible (no matter how deep I stick my fingers in my ears and how piercingly I scream) I find myself becoming increasingly nostalgic.

I want a comforting platitude to cling to as I jump off the cliff into The Real World.  The thing is, no quote by Dr. Seuss and the Dalai Lama quite cuts the cold sweat that breaks out over my entire body at the mere mention of The Future. If I’ve learned anything though, it’s that I’ll “stake my future on a hell of a past/ [cause it] looks like tomorrow is comin’ on fast.”

Chicago, the new age!

I broke my streak of not-so-great New with a trip to Chicago with my guy to visit my best friend. There were so many great moments, but here are my top 5:

1. Piccolo Sogno

Oh my. This was our special NYE date meal, and though it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, it did not disappoint. From our appetizer of grilled calamari (with the suckers still on the tentacles!) to the best ravioli of my life to the 400+ wine list (all Italian!), the meal was perfect from start to finish. I just wish I hadn’t forgotten my camera!

2. The Signature Room

I’m a sucker for good views with visiting a new place, and this didn’t disappoint. Whew.

Hancock Building view from hancock building

3. Jazz Showcase

Though the venue alone would have been by far my favorite place we visited (Miles Davis played there! It’s the definition of a classic jazz club!), the music is what made it extra special.  Roy Hargrove, widely considered the best current jazz trumpeter of the day, killed it with a show that made me melt back into a time of martinis and cocktail dresses. Here’s a great review of the whole thing.

jazz showcase

4. Walking

I adamantly feel that the best way to get to know a city is to get lost in it. Though it was a bit cold for me (read: miserable) so I didn’t explore quite as much as I’d like, the walks were the best part. We wandered into the best little diner, past the Chicago Tribune, and into a dive(ish) bar with a huge selection of local beers on tap. I’d love to go back when I can walk 1/4 of a mile without whining uncontrollably.


5. Breakfast

Orange, Ann Sather, the aforementioned diner, and an Ethiopian brunch made each morning worth walking into those bitter freezing temperatures.


I’d say it was a great trip 🙂

Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Disaster Pageant On Ice

I love Sufjan Stevens: any singer with grace-centered theology, an enchanting voice, and adjectives like “mystical apostasy”  to describe a Christmas unicorn…now that’s my kind of music.  When I found out that he was touring within a feasible distance, I immediately bought tickets and read every concert review I could scrounge up.

View on the way there (too busy snoozing to catch the ride home)

View on the way there (too busy snoozing to catch the ride home)

We headed to Oxford.  I’d never really been anywhere in Mississippi, holding on to every Alabamian’s desperate belief that it is the one state to which we are truly superior.  Imagine my combined horror/delight when I discovered that Oxford is actually the most incredible little town.  Not only is it home to William Faulkner’s estate (a dream trip of mine, but we arrived a tad late), it is also the real-live Star’s Hollow. I squealed all the way through the square, and almost exploded when we found the coziest book stores imaginable, complete with a book signing! After reading book blurbs to my heart’s content, we wandered into a restaurant that looked delectable (and it was!).  If you ever want a nice meal in Oxford, I really don’t think you could possibly do better than City Grocery.

As for the concert, the only word that comes to mind is divine. The mix of sing-along classics, old hymns, and Sufjan shenanigans was truly enchanting. The best part? It wasn’t completely Christmas-fied. Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, he quieted things down with an acoustic rendition of Chicago, and as an encore after the Christmas Unicorn craziness, he played all of my favorites—To Be Alone With You, John Wayne Gacy, Jr., Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland Illinois—I spent the majority of the concert leaned over the railing just in awe (that’s the other thing, we had the greatest spot! I could see!), and the rest of the time snuggling to songs like this one.

photo (11)

Great food, music, and company (and a fabulous nap on the ride home?)…

Christmas simply doesn’t get much better.