Merry Christmas

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Wishing you all a beautiful and warm Christmas from my family to yours! We’ve been very blessed this year and we are looking forward to 2014.

In the meantime, I have a little treat for you. Below is a cover of WHAM!’s “Last Christmas” that my husband’s band, Hallows, recorded. Enjoy!

 

Molasses Spice Cookies

Molasses Spice Cookies

My mom has several friends that give my parents baked goods for Christmas and since Jordan and I live close we get to share in on their gift 🙂 I’ve come to look forward to the variety of desserts to eat and new recipes to try in the future. I’m sharing with you a cookie recipe that has become a favorite in our home — Molasses Spice Cookies!

As I have mentioned before, Jordan leans toward simple cookies and this one fits the bill for both of us! The molasses spice cookie is the feisty cousin to the always reliable sugar cookie; basic and simple to make, but fun and festive for the holidays.

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Favorites of 2013: Music

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As each year passes, I’ve found it more difficult to remember what I took in culturally: did I watch/listen/read that? I’m going to use this space to catalogue my favorites, starting with music! Please let me preface that obviously this isn’t the list, but just my list as I don’t listen to all styles and genres of music. My list is in alphabetical order, but I if I had to pick my favorite musical discovery of this year, it would be Lorde.

Arcade Fire | Reflektor
Arcade Fire is a band that I regret to admit I didn’t fully understand when I first heard them. Why do they have, like, 20 members? What is with the costumes? I even had the opportunity to see them live a few years ago, but I declined and Jordan brought his brother instead. Despite my earlier mistake, I have grown to like them a lot. This album is a combination of dissonant rhythms and melodies that blend together to create a full rich sound. The dance type songs don’t feel rushed either – perfect for dancing. 

Favorite Song: Here Comes The Night Time |Spotify| iTunes|

Andrew Belle | Black Bear
Everyone needs that album. You know what I’m talking about, the album that you put on to let out a good cry, read a book, take a nap, work creatively or enjoy some good marriage snuggle time 😉 This isn’t background music, but mood setting music: pure emotive and honestly simply beautiful. Andrew Belle’s Black Bear just kind of blew me away.

Favorite Song: Many Lives |Spotify| iTunes|

Beyoncé | Beyoncé
Beyoncé almost didn’t make this list because her album snuck up on all of us! I was a Destiny’s Child fan (I can still recite all of the lyrics from “Say My Name”, despite not having heard the song in years), but Beyoncé always led that train. While, I’ve admired Beyoncé, this album is the first one of hers where I’ve actually liked the entire journey not just the pit stops (i.e. singles). Job well done, Mrs. Carter. Or as Jordan said, “I can’t believe how good this album is.”

Favorite Song: XO |iTunes|

Ellie Goulding | Halcyon Days
Technically, this is a re-release of her 2012 album, Halcyon, so I’m cheating bit. BUT there are ten new songs, so I’m just going to count it as something separate! Jordan and I first discovered Ellie when she performed on SNL in May of 2011. I was so impressed, I bought her album, Lights, and have followed her career ever since. The lyrics on this album are storytelling like a folk song, but her breathy voice and ethereal dance music creates a style all to her own.

Favorite Song: Burn (from the new released songs) |Spotify| iTunes|

Lorde | Pure Herion
It’s kind of amazing to think that a 16 year-old from NZ could take the US music scene by storm in only a few months, but that’s exactly what happened this summer with Lorde. I have probably listened to this album the most this year, particularly when I am getting ready in the morning and I need some extra pep!

Favorite Song: Ribs |Spotify| iTunes|

Paul McCartney | NEW
I love that Paul McCartney still puts out new music… and thankfully, it is also really really good. Jordan and I saw Sir Paul live at Wrigley Field a few years ago and he was amazing: played for three hours without stopping for anything, even to drink water! I also think it’s pretty cool that George Martin’s son was one of the producers on this album. If you like the Beatles sound and Paul’s songwriting then you may fall in love with this album and how some new elements are fused with the old.

Favorite Song: Alligator |Spotify| iTunes|

M.I.A. | Matangi
M.I.A. is just cool and that coolness echoes in her music. Matangi is little mixture of R&B, world music beats, synth sounds, and a whole lot of confidence. M.I.A.’s lyrics are like that friend who says what everyone else is thinking but is too afraid to say out loud. This is apparent in her take on the YOLO trend, explained in the song “Y.A.L.A.”, “If you only live once, why we keep doing the same [stuff]?”

Favorite Song: Only 1 U |SpotifyiTunes|

Paramore | Paramore
I admired Paramore’s earlier music, but it was a little young sounding for me. I kinda got tired of the pop punk music of my youth (Fall Out Boy, New Found Glory, etc.). Thankfully, I have Jordan who tends to know what’s up on good music and who encouraged me to take a fresh listen. This album is a mature Paramore and delivers wonderful pop rock songs. And even if this isn’t your style, you can’t deny Haley Williams can SAAANG.

Favorite Song: Hate to See Your Heart Break |SpotifyiTunes|

Katy Perry | Prism
I just love Katy. Prism is reminiscent of the less moody/grunge 1990s music and I mean that as a compliment! S Club 7, anyone? When I was little, I let myself fully embrace the pop ballads and sang my little heart out while roller blading down my street wearing overalls 🙂 There are also great messages mixed in through out this album. In “It Takes Two”which is essentially a song about breaking up, instead of blaming the other she speaks about how we must be the first to say “I’m sorry.”

Favorite Song: International Smile |SpotifyiTunes|

Phoenix | Bankrupt!
Back in the early years of dating (2005), Jordan came to me with the discovery of a new band, Phoenix.  Well, new to us at least 🙂 I loved them instantly and Thomas Mars (lead singer) is instantly cooler because he’s married to Sofia Coppola (one of my favorite, young film directors). Jordan and I saw them play a sold out show at the Aragon Ballroom this September and it was one of the best nights of this year. Bankrupt! is full of intimate lyrics paired with anthemic melodies and slightly aloof-synth-dance style rock & roll.

Favorite Song: S.O.S. in Bel Air |SpotifyiTunes|

Justin Timberlake | The 20/20 Experience
I grew up in that prime time to fully embrace the boy band, but I never did. My access to music mainly came from my older brothers (Blink 182 to the Cranberries), but I always knew Justin had something special. Jordan and I have really enjoyed his appearances on SNL and would wonder if a return to music would happen! This album sounds deliberate, a clear stepping stone to set him apart from basically everyone he was associated with early on in his music career (watching the members of ‘N sync perform next to him during this year’s VMA’s was just sad). This album is a little less pop and a little more soul.

Favorite Song: Strawberry Bubblegum |SpotifyiTunes|

Vampire Weekend | Modern Vampires of the City
I will always associate Vampire Weekend with my naive newly-wed days (as their first album released the same year as our wedding), and just like I continue to mature so does Vampire Weekend. They came on the scene with the vibe of preppy east-coast rockers mixed with some Paul Simon Graceland musical vibes. This third release has pushed aside collegiate songs for lyrics that evoke thoughts that arise as we/they reach their 30s. “Wisdom’s a gift/But you’d trade it for youth.”

Their dance like quality hasn’t completely vanished though, Jordan and I may sometimes put on this album and dance around our apartment listening to “Diane Young”.

Favorite Song: Unbelievers |Spotify| iTunes|

Kanye West | Yeezus
Despite myself, I absolutely bought into this album. It’s at times crass, abrasive, genius, or any other polarizing adjective you want to throw into the mix, but it also didn’t sound like anything else I listened to this year. It’s masterful in the way that it pushes boundaries and sets itself in a class all its own. I don’t know if I can say it better than the New York Times:

“An aggressive demand for attention…Yeezus arrives with all eyes and ears on Mr. West…Mr. West’s response to all that scrutiny is an album that stays as combative as its opening zap …the album is one long, efficient, inventive kick in the head.”

Favorite Song: New Slaves |SpotifyiTunes|

What were some of your favorite albums this year?

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To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Basket

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Sometimes I am a walking contradiction; I’m not super spontaneous, but I also don’t particularly relish planning out details. While traveling in Europe last spring, besides our plane/train/bus rides between each city, we basically free-formed each day and, honestly, it was the best! Jordan and I have always liked to explore without an agenda; keeping an open mind has allowed fun opportunities that might not have happened otherwise. So over the weekend, despite the single-digit weather, we chose to spend an afternoon walking around Chicago (though once the wind picked up I rethought our dismissal of seeing a movie!). We browsed a couple of favorite stores, bought a few Christmas presents, and then magically found a certain item I had been searching for several months to find!

We walked past Fourth Presbyterian Church where they were holding their annual Holiday Fair Trade Gift Bazaar. With a name like, that how could I resist taking a peek? The bazaar sells handmade artisanal items from Ten Thousand Villages.

I’ve been on the hunt for a large basket with a lid  (Natalie did a round-up, so I’m linking to her) to hold our extra blankets and pillows. I enjoy using baskets to hold anything from magazines to my hair products. They’ve been a great tool for me to keep my home looking decorated but organized (Why have one blanket when you can have ten?!). Our apartment is from the 1920s and has a very large, traditional dining room, so it has sometimes been tricky to utilize all our space. After some extensive internet searching and pinterest-ing, I found a few baskets I liked, but I wasn’t really willing to spend $100+ on a basket. That’s why I was thrilled to find baskets everywhere when we entered the church; baskets that were large, the perfect color, and a more reasonable price!

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^ I’ve always loved the courtyard of this church. And it looks exceptionally beautiful all decorated for Christmas.

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^And then we had to walk several blocks back to our car with a huge basket 😉

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^ It quickly found its place in our dining room, but I’m thinking of purchasing another from their website to add to our collection!

Music Monday: Christmas Edition

Sufjan Stevens Songs for Christmas

The time has come to begin baking Christmas cookies, decorate your tree, and of course listen to lots and lots of Christmas music! I was tempted to start listening before Thanksgiving, but I held off until last week. As someone who spent much of my youth in either a band (I played clarinet) or choir, I am well versed in traditional and nontraditional holiday music; the good, the bad, and the ugly songs (I’m sorry, but “I saw mommy kissing santa claus”, is just weird however you look at it).

Julie Andrews and Bing Crosby were on regular rotation in my house growing up, but more recently, I like my Christmas music on the melancholy dreamy side. I discovered that I liked my Christmas music this way basically because of Sufjan Stevens‘ Songs for Christmas. It’s a little bit weird, but equally beautiful; new songs mixed with traditional hymns and instrumental versions. Jordan and I used his arrangement of “Holy, Holy, Holy” at our wedding.

These box sets started as personal gifts Sufjan gave to friends and family each year, eventually he bound the EP’s together; stickers and posters are included 🙂 Songs for Christmas came out in 2006 and Silver & Gold was released last year. If you are looking for a few songs to begin with here are a few of my favorites: “Silent Night”, “Sister Winter”, “Only at Christmas Time”,” Star of Wonder”, “The Midnight Clear”, and “The Friendly Beasts.”

Sufjan Stevens Silver and Gold

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Homemade Breakfast Granola

Homemade Breakfast Granola

Over Thanksgiving weekend, my brother Jason mentioned he recently made granola. My mother also regularly makes granola, but for some reason the idea had never crossed my mind. Which is odd considering my pantry is stocked with these ingredients regularly. I found this recipe on Pinterest and tweaked it a little to include the kind of oil and sweetener I wanted to use. I’m excited to build upon this recipe and experiment with different variations – coconut and chocolate would be an exciting combo to try!

I don’t imagine this batch sticking around for very long because Jordan has already been snatching little bites all day. So, if you have more than two people in your house that will eat granola, I would suggest doubling the recipe because it really is just that good! Also, this would be a lovely gift to give during this holiday season. Fill some cute jars, include the recipe on the gift tag, and you are good to go!

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Hallows

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I’m so excited that the time has come for me to share about a project that Jordan has been working on for the majority of this year! “Tiny Heart” is the debut single of Jordan’s new band, Hallows, and they released it today!

Jordan is in the band with his brother, Joshua, and their friend, Gary. It’s exciting to see the fruit from the boys’ hard work. I hope you enjoy the song just as much as I do, though I might be slightly biased 🙂 And seriously, my man works so hard for us and our future, I couldn’t be more proud!

If you like the song please feel free to spread the love. We appreciate your support!

They will be releasing a Christmas song in the coming weeks, so be sure to look out for the announcement on the Hallows website.

A Birthday Gift

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Jordan and I typically lean toward giving each other experiences for birthday/anniversary/Christmas gifts rather then material items. I’m thankful that Jordan and I decided to give our gifts this way because I won’t remember a pair of shoes 20 years from now, but I will remember the many adventures, trips away, and concerts that we’ve experienced together.

This year, we’ve really enjoyed the concerts we’ve gone to. Buying tickets several months in advance doesn’t provide instant gratification, but I love having nights to look forward to. Last night we saw Paramore, one of our favorite bands. They were touring in support of their critically acclaimed, bestselling, self-titled album (one of our favs of the year). I’ve come to appreciate these shared crowed experiences: giving one another mental high five’s, like “Are you seeing what is happening?!” We were surrounded by people who were just as excited as we were; happily singing and dancing along all night! And that girl Haley has some pipes on her, woah!

Do you ever give non-traditional gifts?

Remember when bringing in cameras to concerts wasn’t allowed? My iPhone takes better pictures then my first digital camera 10 years ago! Oh, how the times have changed.

Exploring Our Town | Chicago

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I am drawn to urban living. I don’t usually crave wide open spaces. I prefer being able to walk to my coffee shops and grocery stores; parallel parking alludes me though, so I have to work on that. My ideal home is something like Kathleen Kelly‘s brownstone in the movie, You’ve Got Mail. I don’t even mind sharing walls with my neighbors and renting. While I’m able to appreciate the country, it is most definitely not for me. And the perfection that is the suburbs can feel suffocating at times. I need some grit and chaos. Jordan and I hope to move into a major city one day, but until that becomes a reality, we will continue to visit them often. Thankfully, the heart of Chicago is just a short train or car ride away.

Jordan’s been really busy lately, juggling various new projects and was craving a diversion. So without an agenda, we drove into Chicago over the weekend and walked and walked and walked! We ate burgers with avocados and bacon and drank lattes. I may have also stepped into Madewell and started drooling. Jordan was kind and let me buy a new shirt that was marked down so low it was practically begging me to take it home. Don’t worry, he finally picked up the new Arcade Fire album on vinyl so we shopped evenly 🙂

Nighttime in Chicago might be my favorite way of enjoying the city, especially when the Christmas lights are out. It’s so magical. Eventually, the rain sent us home and we started watching Man of Steel (and my girl crush on Amy Adams is ignited once again) before a sinus headache flared up. If you ever need to know if a storm is coming through, I’m your girl (my head sinuses sync with the weather).

Sinus headache aside, it was a pretty perfect day.

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^Seriously, buy yourself some Hunter boots. You won’t be disappointed. This is one of the smartest purchases I’ve ever made.

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A Day at the Vineyard

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As soon as our plane tickets were purchased for Nashville, Lauren and Ashley began planning a trip to Arrington Vineyards. The vineyards are only 25 miles south of Nashville, but it really feels like another world (or maybe, to my flat mid-western mindset, anything with hills means you’ve driven far)! The grounds are so beautiful and inviting – if you’re planning a visit, make sure to bring snacks and a blanket.

We set up a little picnic and spent the rest of afternoon having the best of conversations. It’s hard when close friends move away, so I’m always thankful for opportunities to visit and catch up on life. This was one of the most relaxing days I’ve had in awhile. Hopefully, we will be able to go back!

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^ We’ve got your Christmas cards covered 😉

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