Favorite Songs of 2012

My favorite 10 songs for 2012 may closely correspond to the only songs I know from 2012. I admit I've been kind of out of it culturally this year due to not being on the radio and working more hours, and other stuff. Anyway, thanks G for asking the question about 2012 and forcing me to actually make this list!

Sheila: Memory Tapes

Here's what I like about Memory Tapes—he uses all the buttons. First it's the Space Pad, then some kinda galloping bass that dreams of Joy Division, then the angelic choir... and that's just in minute one. Many more noises come along, and I love all of them, mostly because I love Tomita, and therefore love anything by Memory Tapes. Grace/Confusion out on Car Park Records.

Memory Tapes - Sheila by Carpark Records



That's What's Up: Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

Everybody loves them, right? Because of "Home" a few years ago. That NPR-friendly boy-girl affirmation was such a great song--"Home is wherever I am with you." Yes! I like this new song because it reminds me of Home.

   That's What's Up by Edward Sharpe Mag Zeros


The Theory of Relativity: Stars

Such a serious intro, Stars! As much as I want to think you're not still bringing it after a dozen years of loving you (witness my problems with U2 and REM), you ARE bringing it. Thank you my fellow Canadians.

   The Theory of Relativity by Stars


Genesis: Grimes

Montreal brilliant songstress/synth lady strikes again with her third album. Why have I not heard of her before this? Even New York Magazine name-checked Grimes in Nitsuh Abebe's year-end wrap-up. Good Canadian stuff.

   Grimes - Genesis by The Vinyl District


Faster Horses: MNDR

MNDR sounds like Goldfrapp, which is good. She/they also sounds like Mark Ronson's Bang Bang Bang, and that's good. I think I might like MNDR a little bit extra because she/they have a good social media campaign and bug me just enough via email for me to pay attention. Voila!

MNDR - Faster Horses (GRVRBBRS Remix) by GRVRBBRS


All I Heard: Mitzi

Just last night my beloved was telling me about the idea of a lost decade that occurred between 1979 and 1980, and how we may be getting messages and artifacts from that never-lived era. I would submit this song by Mitzi, label-mates of Cut Copy (and fellow Australians) as proof. This song is a wonderful fry-up of disco and 80s sounds and hidden what-all.

Mitzi - All I Heard by future classic



Only in My Dreams: Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

How does Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti keep turning out these totally retro and charming songs? (And how do they make me keep typing out "Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti"?) This song makes me feel like I'm at a sock hop or something. I'm sure I'm getting my era wrong, but if there's a song this year that Mr. Buddy Love might like, I bet it's this one.



The Guillotine: The Coup

"We got the guillotine! We got the guillotine, you better run!" In the video The Coup are dressed up like Wizard of Oz characters, so presumably this song has something to do with the fakey over-industrialized establishment. That's right, right?



Ruin: Cat Power

Two things about this song. One is that it reminds me of her songs from 1998's Moon Pix, and I've been missing that sound with all the sparkle and Lagerfeld she's been up to since then. The other thing is that I'm fascinated by the simple lolloping piano subject of this song. It sounds easy, but it's syncopated and skips around measures and the effect is stirring and propulsive. Nice.

Cat Power - Ruin by artsandcraftsmx



Gangnam Style: Psy

Because of course.

30 Paleo Ideas for Your Whole30

Around this time, people are gearing up for January resolutions, cleanses, detox programs, and perhaps the Whole30. If you're looking for Whole30 resources, their website has a bunch planned for January 2013. I thought it might also be helpful to list some of the dishes and meals that got me through the Whole30 30-day plan back in September. I've had some trouble posting photos, so instead here's a slideshow--30 ideas! Let me know in the comments if you're curious about ingredients and I'll try to remember.

I also have a Pinterest board of Paleo ideas, some of which aren't Whole30 compliant but may be inspiring.

Holiday Breakfast Strata

I probably first heard of "breakfast strata" about 10 years ago when a sophisticated family friend served it for brunch. As a geographer's daughter well-aware of the study of stratigraphy, a layered breakfast of eggs and bread and whatever else sounded exactly right.

For the past few years I've been making a breakfast strata on Christmas Eve to heat & eat on Christmas morning. So far I haven't been following a firm recipe, but I'm ready to commit this year. They're always a hit!

  • 1/2 pound (or more) of breakfast sausage (I use our co-op's sausage which isn't in casings)
  • about 8 slices of your favorite crusty bread (whole wheat or white)
  • 8 ounces grated fontina cheese (or more)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 4 scallions, chopped
  • salt & pepper (used an herbed or garlic salt if you like)

  1. Fry up sausage and make sure it's in little bits. (If you're using links, I guess you should cut them up at some point)
  2. Place half the bread in the bottom of a glass baking dish--I used an 8 x 11.5 dish. Just use enough pieces to make a fairly covered layer. A few gaps are OK.
  3. Sprinkle one-third to one-half of the cooked sausage, and the same fraction of grated cheese over the bread.
  4. Repeat with more bread to make another layer, then the rest of the sausage and the rest of the cheese.
  5. Beat the eggs with a fork and then add milk, scallions, and salt & pepper. Whisk all together.
  6. Pour the egg-milk mixture over the ingredients in the dish. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  7. In the morning, preheat oven to 350˚. Remove covering from strata and bake about 30-35 minutes (you should see bubbling in the bottom through the glass dish).
  8. Let cool slightly before serving. You can also hold it in the oven (with heat turned off) for up to an hour if you are expecting guests soon.
This was really yummy! The point of the crusty bread is not so much the crust but the nice yeasty loft and open structure you get from a bakery bread--unlike a loaf of sandwich bread that is thick and would probably turn out pudding-y.

Happy Christmas to all! Do you have an easy go-to breakfast for Christmas morning? When I was a kid it was often Sara Lee coffee cake. Mmmm.

Global Positioning System on the run

Garmin Forerunner 410

So I bought this fancy GPS watch from Amazon during an after-Thanksgiving sale (see Dec 1 post). I've been trying it out on some of my favorite running routes, particularly a 3.39 mile run that I like to do at least once a week. (Only since getting this watch do I know that it is 3.39 miles exactly! Though sometimes 3.38 for some reason.) I wanted to report back on how the watch works... which is very well so far!

I've been uploading my runs to the Garmin site, and it lets me do all kinds of analytics (that I don't need, but it's fun to find out). I can even see my run "play back," showing the changes in elevation and pace and even heartbeat throughout the run.

Here's a comparison of the last 3 times I ran my favorite 3.39 miler. The results on the left are from today (12/23/12), in the middle are 12/11/12, and on the right are 12/7/12.

Clearly I have a lot of room for improvement. If you'll notice, my time got faster by about a minute with each run. That's pretty significant, and I read it as my being lazy before now because I didn't really know exactly how much I could push it. Now I'm faster because I'm running against the watch rather than just running whatever way feels right. Is that an improvement? I don't know if faster is better or more healthy. But it sure is faster. So the Garmin is working in that sense. I'm learning what a 7:XX mile feels like as opposed to an 8:XX mile, and learning that it's not SO hard to make the 7s happen. I'm also consciously trying to improve my gait (mid-sole footstrike, footstrike under the hip bone, arms not crossing the midline, leaning slightly forward, etc etc.) It's all a work in progress.

That's my Forerunner report for now. The watch has a lot of features I still haven't figured out. I do like the "Virtual Partner" feature, allowing me to try to beat an imaginary running partner (or telling me how far I'm behind her).

Do you have experience with these GPS things? Have you heard about this footstrike stuff runners are talking about these days? Do you know the mileage of your favorite route or hike? (Before I was using mapmyrun, which was OK too.)

Beyond the End of the World

Left: First grade ornament
Right: Kindergarten ornament

I would not have been surprised if the world ended yesterday as predicted. With very good news (I got a raise!) and very bad news (heartbreaking events in CT), plus the usual stresses and delights of the Christmas season, plus two old communication issues coming back up on the same exact day (which was the same exact day the shadow of Mercury in Retrograde passed... coincidence??)--things have just been wild and crazy. Have you felt that way too?

Yet here we still are (I think). That means Christmas is really going to happen so I gotta get organized! Guess what--a list!

  • Waffle dance party! "Gangnam Style" Kinect dancing has been promised.
  • Gift assessment--what did we actually get for people, and are there any gaps? We'll spread everything out, make piles, and hopefully wrap.
  • Cookie dough making.
Tomorrow (Sunday):
  • Baking day
  • Last minute shopping
  • Cheese platter pickup. I'm excited about this one--I ordered a selection of three cheeses from Brattleboro Cheese . You just place your order (I did a custom selection and they were totally accommodating), pay, then return on the designated day to pick up your cheeses.
  • Run. The snow seems to be melting, so maybe I can run outside tomorrow. 
  • Watch Elf. Or maybe part of Lord of the Rings.

Monday, Christmas Eve:
  • Work until noon or 1.
  • Go to my NEW GYM (same as my old gym) to run and maybe take a sauna.
  • Bake ham (I plan to glaze it with red pepper jelly... thanks Ma!)
  • Bake pie (I already have my lucky 9 apples picked out)
  • Assemble my first ever Christmas Eve dinner. Besides ham and pie, I will make my famous Light & Silky Mashed Potatoes (with help from the food mill) and try a brussels sprouts recipe that involves both mustard and mustard seeds
  • Have the traditional reading of Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs and The Night Before Christmas with Douglas W. Gorsline illustrations
  • Hang stockings with care
  • Wrap anything else that needs it, assemble baked goods
  • Listen to a lot of Christmas music 
  • Devise breakfast strata to refrigerate overnight (sausage, eggs, bread, scallions, etc)
Tuesday, ChristmasSSSSSS!!!!!
  • Children's eyes all aglow
  • Eat strata, make full pot of coffee
  • Family times
  • Finger foods--cheese platter, crackers, a mozzarella/tomato salad, carrots, olives
  • dinner at Grandma and Grandpa's
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a merry Solstice and happy winter. I hope the next few days are cozy and bright and satisfying for you and family. It is a special time of year... GO SUN!!!!

Personal styling with Stitch Fix

With my new(ish) job, my newly rekindled love of running, and my new paleo-ish way of eating that has allowed me to get a bit leaner, I've also been trying to build up a new wardrobe. I've been ruthlessly cutting out things I never wear or that make me look or feel the least bit frumpy. Actually, "new" wardrobe might be misleading. Most of my clothes come from Boomerang, the awesome new, used, & vintage store here in Brattleboro, Vermont. I also order online from Garnet Hill and the Gap and sometimes J. Crew if I'm feeling really profligate.

Also I recently hired a personal thrift shopper who I love, but that's a whole 'nother story.

This story is about Stitch Fix. My first box came today!

What is Stitch Fix? It is brilliant, that's what. Well, it's brilliant if you like to fill out forms, avoid stores, talk about yourself, and buy things online, all of which I do. Stitch Fix is like a virtual styling service. You fill out an online style profile, give your credit card #, and set up a "fix." They select clothes and sometimes accessories (new) based on your profile. Stitch Fix charges you $20 for each box they style, but if you buy anything from the box the $20 turns into a credit. You try everything on and just return whatever you don't like. What you keep you get charged for. It's kind of like Netflix for clothes. You have to return items you don't want within 3 days.

Here's what I wrote in my style profile under "Anything else you'd like us to know?":

I hate crew necks, except on cardigans for which I require crew necks. I feel uncomfortable in skirts that are much shorter than knee length. I am a huge fan of very drapey cowl necks. I won't wear yellow but I love orange. Skinny jeans are not a good look for me and I refuse to wear boots over pants. I adore gauzy layers, ruffles, ruching, and odd seams. I love grey, black, and white/cream "uniforms" that I perk up with pops of red, green, purple or orange, be they a simple belt, a peek of tights, or an entire top. I have a horror of appearing middle aged or soccer mom-ish. Thanks for your help! I'm a busy mom and frugal, but always excited to find something that makes me feel like I look good.

I had no idea what to expect, not even what kinds of items would be in the box or how many. I was a little worried when I found the box was so light.

And when I opened the box, it wasn't heaping full either. There was a modest bundle wrapped in tissue, and an envelope with an invoice, some explanations, and a little gift of stickie notes. They sent me five items to try on.

Collective Concepts, Ivy Paint Stripe Tab Sleeve Blouse

First up was this gauzy collarless blouse with tab sleeves. It is very sheer (I'm wearing a camisole here) and a lot paler than my usual clothing choices. It is taupe-ish with rosy horizontal stripes. I am not sure about horizontal stripes actually, and this is not a color I'd ever try on in a store. Looking at this picture though I kind of like the pirate-sleeve effect the tab is giving. I'm undecided on this one I guess. I'm not sure what I'd wear it with besides jeans, and I really need stuff for work.

Lola & Sophie, Thayer Jersey Crossfront Top

Excuse my smudgy mirror in this pic. This crossfront top was kind of bananas. I loved the color--a rich royal purple that doesn't come through in the photo. I love the sleeve length. I love the idea of drapiness in the center there. But this piece had 2 problems for me--it was a little tunic-like in what I think is a matronly way. Also, it has deep cleavage both coming and going.

Problem area #1
Basically the whole front is only joined together where it crosses, so there are huge flaps both at the decolletage and at the tummy. The slightest breeze or shift or lean could expose half your torso. So this one was a NO.

Natural Life, Chaimbers Knit Cowlneck Top

Love. Simple. Grey. Soft. Cozy. This is definitely where my $20 credit is going. Boring old grey, je t'aime!

Ark n Co, Paseo Long Sleeve Wrap Dress
What the heck, Stitch Fix, did I not say "I feel uncomfortable in skirts that are much shorter than knee length"?? This is much shorter than knee length. That said, it looks kind of good. However, I don't have any call for a short dress with a plunging neckline in my life. It doesn't seem crazy enough for party-wear, yet it's too crazy for work.

Spun Scarves by Subtle Luxury.
Here's that darn dress again with the fifth item, a gigantic gorgeous rayon scarf. This thing is about six feet long and three feet wide (I may be exaggerating) and costs about twice as much as I'd ever want to pay for a scarf. $55.

Scarf detail: "antique fleur"
The scarf is really pretty though. Just the kind of subtle green and muted pattern that I like.

Stitch Fix tag
Each piece has a hang tag with styling ideas. The other side is a written overview of the piece, like catalog copy.

I like Stitch Fix! It was fun to have an impromptu Monday night fashion show. My immediate problem is to decide what to keep and what to send back. What do you think?

If you're interested in Stitch Fix, here's a referral link where you can get on a list: http://stitchfix.com/users/signup/?referrer_id=3030348 . This is still a beta thing so I have no idea how Stitch Fix is ultimately going to pan out. Just for disclosure, I was not compensated for writing this post (I paid for it, actually). But I would get a $25 credit if you signed up through the referral link. :)

First Snow

We woke up to the first snow of the season this morning. Perfect, since I just finished my last Pile on the Miles run at 6pm last night. My goal was to run 45 miles in the month of November. Since I'm bad at math, I ended up running 46 miles by mistake! As the month went on and my goal got closer, I started bargaining with the universe to just please hold off on snowing until December. I don't prefer to run in snow. Thank you universe!

Behold my goal list for November:
  1. blog at least once about something that isn't running or eating Paleo DONE!
  2. run 45 miles for Pile on the Miles 2012 DONE, YAY!
  3. look into a gym membership so I can keep running even if it's freezing/snowy DONE! We picked a gym we like
  4. run the annual 3-mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving day DONE!
  5. go on the Putney Craft Tour DONE!
  6. make Sangkaya--winter squash with coconut custard baked inside FAIL.
  7. figure out holiday cards EARLY DONE! All ordered from Shutterfly
  8. do a bootcamp/kettlebell workout at home at least once a week, probably Monday evenings I did this on two Mondays. That counts, right?
  9. Devote Thanksgiving long weekend totally to family (and the Putney Craft Tour) DONE
  10. figure out about gymnastics classes for our 1st grader DONE
  11. convert our toddler to a "big boy bed," and also persuade his to stay there all night (he can now vault out of his crib at will, and has done so at least once a night since Halloween) DONE

For this month, here's what I like to accomplish:

  1. Organize Christmas gifts with a minimum of stress. I need to make a list first
  2. Actually join the gym that we scoped out and go there 3 times a week
  3. Figure out my January trip to Santa Fe--what to take where, where to be when, etc
  4. Figure out how to work my new Garmin GPS watch (!!!)
  5. Make more of an effort with Sunday food prep, since I rely on it all week
  6. Sign our 1st grader up for winter sports program at school
  7. file a Freedom of Information Act request I've been meaning to do
  8. send out the holiday cards!

About that Garmin watch. Apparently Amazon knows this is my dream acquisition, because for their Cyber Monday sale they put it RIGHT on my homepage. And it was HALF OFF. I was unable to resist and purchased the thing almost immediately. (First I had to check with my spouse, because we have a deal that nobody buys something over a certain amount without letting the other person know.) It can be my birthday present to myself... just a little early.

It came yesterday and it's gorgeous. For a chunky Swiss appliance.

What is the point of this thing? Part of it is wanting to be like the running bloggers I admire. Seems like everyone has one of these GPS-enabled watches! The watch uses satellite info to figure out where you are at any given moment, and thus calculate how far you've gone and how fast you're going. So I'll be able to tell if I'm running an 8-minute mile (which is my race pace at the moment), or faster or slower or whatever. You can also upload all this and have Garmin track your stats over time, even your heart rate for each workout. I think it will be a fun and useful training tool. But, it comes with a lot of stuff and is kind of high-tech (for me) so I need to sit down and figure it out.

Garmin and entourage. What ARE all these things?

So how was your November? Any concrete December plans? Thanks for reading my goals--writing them down really helps!