Monday, September 29, 2014

Celebrating 100

I spent this weekend in Kalamazoo with my family celebrating my great grandmother's 100th birthday. Her birthday was on Wednesday, but we had a party for her on Saturday. It's not every day someone you know turns 100. It's kind of amazing to think about all she's been through and experienced within her life. I feel so blessed to still have her around. My great grandma is one of the strongest, most generous, inspiring women I know. I only hope to be half the woman she is.

She's been in a rehab facility for most of the summer (after having a fall), but she made it home on Thursday. My mom said she even noticed major improvements just over the couple of days that she's been back home. It's amazing how much our recovery depends on our comfort levels and surroundings.

An older(ish) photo of my mom and grandma. This was either Easter or someone's birthday.

My mom took the week off and drove down with my grandpa on Wednesday, then my dad, brother, and I drove down Saturday morning. Getting up at 5:30am wasn't exactly my idea of a good time, but there was no way I'd miss celebrating with my grandma. After being able to spend more time with her while I was in college, I miss having her near by. I used to love going over to my aunt's house and sitting down next to my grandma to drink coffee and chat about life. After 100 years she has plenty of stories to tell and opinions to share (and she was never afraid to share them).

Many people mentioned what a great cook my grandma has always been. She always took the time to make home made meals for people passing through and she never let you go without something to eat. Even when I'd come over to take care of her while my aunt was away, she'd never let me go too long without eating something. She always puts other people before herself.

A few Christmases ago I started helping my grandma make all the cookies for the holiday. For most of my life she's been a making lemon star cookies, date cookies, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cookies, toffee bars, peanut brittle every Christmas. Of course she never goes by an actual recipe, so helping her bake was a bit of a challenge, but we managed. My cookies never turned out quite like hers, but I hope someday I'll get the hang of it.

Looking at pictures over the years brought up so many fond memories of going to visit my grandma's old house on the lake. My grandma moved in with my aunt (who had been living with her at the lake for some time) to a new house closer to town back in 2003. I was so sad when they sold that house because it used to be one of my favorite places to visit. The house was right next to this little corner store and my grandma would always give my brother and I money to go over and get candy whenever we came to visit.

This was probably taken right before they left the lake house.

The house had this amazing bathroom with a slanted ceiling and this crazy green long shag carpet. I used to love going in there to sit after people would take their showers and it would be all warm and cozy. There was also a three (four?) seasons room where we'd always sit and play Trouble or cards. In the summer we'd go swimming or take the paddle boat out. Plenty of fun was had all around.

Just two out of the many, many dance concert pictures taken together over the years.

My great grandma has this whole history all her own and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. She's been to all my dance concerts, showing her love and support over the years. We've celebrated birthdays and Christmases and graduations together. I've been lucky enough to create memories with her in multiple states around the country. There's no one else in the world quite like my great grandma. I have always looked up to her and appreciated her words of wisdom. I hope that we have many more days to spend together.

It was also really great to see extended family that I haven't seen in a long time. Including my long lost cousin who I haven't properly spent time with in over 3 year (if not more). We need to figure out some time to get together.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Summer TBR Wrap Up

Fall officially starts tomorrow so I figured now would be a good time to do a wrap up of all the books I've read over the summer. At the beginning of the season I made a list of books I wanted to read over the coming months. Although I didn't get to every single book on my designated list I did manage to read a majority of the books.

The first book I read was The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which I absolutely loved. The story is the perfect combination between a mystery and a love story. Once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.

The second book was the Seeking Her novella by Cora Carmack. As much as I liked reading from Hunt's perspective, there wasn't much in terms of new information. I'd rather it have been a continuation of the story, like Keeping Her. Reading the novella did however inspire me to reread Finding It. I don't know if I liked the book as much as I did the first time, but it still made me all emotional inside.

The fourth, and probably the most frustrating, book I read over the summer was The Circle by Dave Eggers. The novel was a satirical view of the value we place on digital communication and technological advancements over personal connections. I liked the book because of the questions it prompted and it's analysis of human behavior, but I thought the novel could have made it's point using less words. I also still can't figure out how I feel about the ending.

Book five was We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. Although the writing in this book was simple, the characters themselves became quite complex. There's not much to say without ruining the story. Just go read it!

The sixth book was The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. This was not a required read in my junior high english class so I missed out on the book years ago. Although I was expecting Anne's diary to be sad, I was quite surprised at how funny her writing was as well. Anne lived a very different life than my own, but I often felt like her thoughts and opinions were similar to mine at that age.

The seventh book I finished was The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. This was another story I absolutely adored. Reading the story was like entering into a dreamland that was so visible in my mind I never wanted to leave. They need to make this into a movie.

Book eight was the Fracture Me novella by Tahereh Mafi. I'm getting sad just thinking about the fact that all I have is one book left in the series. I feel so attached to these characters and I still have no idea who I want Juliette to end up with. Although reading from Kent's perspective actually turned me off from his character more.

Books nine and ten were If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman. After purchasing a few of the songs from Adam's band off of the movie soundtrack, my interest in seeing the movie grew exponentially. So the minute I finished reading the book, I immediately begged my mom to go see it with me. The thing I loved about these books were how big of a part music played in all the characters lives. Since music is a really big passion of mine, I felt connected with everyone in the book. I also used the book as inspiration for some exploration into the punk rock world. Although I already own/listen to a wide range of music, there's always room for growth. Side note: I might have liked Where She Went better than If I Stay.

I also began reading The Brothers Karamazov last month, which seemed like a big task, but has been surprisingly fun. I'm only about 1/5th of the way through the book, but I'm actually reading faster than I expected now that I can kind of keep all the characters straight. I think mastering the names is probably the hardest part about the novel.

Lastly, I've still been plugging away at Les Miserables over the last few months. I'm nearing at the half way point and trying to dedicate more time to the book in order to finish the novel by the end of the year.

At the end of the season I've finished a total of ten books since making my summer TBR. Seven of the ten were directly listed in my TBR post, leaving two of the original nine listed (The Angel's Game and Goodnight June) left. Hopefully I'll get around to reading those last couple books soon.

Did you make a summer TBR? How did you do?


Friday, September 19, 2014

Today Was A Great Day...

Maybe not in the way you might think. Nothing special happened today. I didn't win a prize or celebrate some milestone. What made today so great was being able to appreciate all the little things. Sometimes it seems that we're so concerned with getting more or achieving that next level of success that we don't stop and notice what we have right now. I know that this concept is nothing new; there's plenty of famous quotes or works of literature that discuss this very notion, but we somehow still forget all of that.

Occasionally I forget how much love and beauty I'm surrounded by in my life. I forget that not everyone is blessed to live by a body of water that shimmers in the sun and constantly varies between numerous shades of blue. I forget that not everyone can go for a walk in the middle of the day under the warmth of the sun, while enjoying the light breeze blowing off the water. I forget that being able to buy coffee and sitting in a bookstore to read for a few hours is a luxury. But today I remembered, and I was able to appreciate how special these gifts are.

When I got home this afternoon the first thing that I wanted to do was go downstairs and play the new vinyl records I purchased over the weekend. So I started up the turntable, put my BBC Recording of The Black Keys on and cranked up the sound. Since we no longer have a working TV in my parent's basement and I didn't just feel like sitting around, I decided to pick up a neglected cue and play a game of pool against myself. I haven't played pool for a few years now and it was pretty obvious by the craptastic shots I was taking. It took me, what seemed to be, 20 shots (I lost count) just to sink one ball, but it didn't matter. After a while I switched out The Black Keys for one of my parent's Tina Turner records and started a full on dance party by myself. As I was jumping around and using the cue as my own personal rock star microphone I realized how little some things have changed in my life. I will never stop singing into the end of the cue or shaking what my mamma gave me when the time is right. Some things you do when you're younger you wouldn't dream of doing today and other things will always stay with you.

Right in the middle of my Turner impersonation I spun around to find my brother standing by the table and laughing at me. Really nothing changes and you better bet I didn't skip a beat. That's when he grabbed his cue and so began the next couple hours of family fun. My dad joined us for a few rounds of Cut Throat after getting home from work, and my mom made a late entrance for her typical role as game observer. It's been harder the last few years to find time to spend together and it was nice being able to laugh and joke with the people I love. We will always be able to bond over pool.

So today was a great day. The same kind of day as many other days, but with a totally different perspective. And sometimes, perspective makes all the difference.

What is your idea of a great day? What kind of things did you do with your family growing up that you can still bond over today?


Monday, September 8, 2014

Music I've Been Loving Lately

Hey Guys,
It's been all summer and I don't think I've done one music update since my Spring Playlist. Three months is a long time to cover when trying to condense my ever-changing musical taste, but I'll give it a try. A lot of the new music I discovered or chose to listen to this summer was from movie soundtracks. A great movie soundtrack might be one of my favorite things in the entire world; it's like an instant playlist, blending new with old and bringing artists that you might never discover elsewhere to the forefront of your mind.

1. Head.Cars.Bending by The 1975 
As far as I remember the first time I heard of The 1975 was from missglamorazzi in some Youtube video of her's a while back. Then my friend sent me some early videos of their's when the EP was just coming out and I fell in love with the songs Sex and Chocolate. A while later when they're full CD was released, I bought a few songs here and there, going through phases and slowly adding to the collection. Saturday night I finally broke down and bought the whole Deluxe Edition; and I have no idea why I waited this long. I think sometimes bands are like a good meal, you don't want to jam everything in your mouth at once but chew each bite slowly giving yourself time to enjoy every piece of food.

2. At Your Door by Nathaniel Walcott, Mike Mogis & Big Harp (Stuck In Love Soundtrack)
Stuck In Love is amazing and the soundtrack just added to my big, giant love for the movie. Immediately after watching the film for the first time, I rushed to my computer to check out the album. Basically every song on the soundtrack is good.

3. In Remission by The Menzingers
"If everyone needs a crutch, I need a wheelchair..." Oh Menzingers how I love you so.

4. Hero by Family of the Year (Thanks for Sharing Soundtrack)
Another movie that encompassed everything I love. Not only was it a great story, but I adore every single actor/actress in it, and the soundtrack kicked serious ass.

5. Afterlife by Ingrid Michaelson
Lights Out is definitely one of my favorite albums of this year. Ingrid is awesome and I didn't stop listening to this entire album on repeat for about a week. Like all great albums, there's a perfect balance between catchy pop songs and slow emotional melodies. Go check it out.

6. I Want What You Have by Willamette Stone (If I Stay Soundtrack)
I finally got around to reading If I Stay last week and loved how strong of a role music played in the story. Mia, her parents, Teddy, and Adam's lives all revolve around creating and appreciating music (something I can definitely relate to). I figured most of the music on the soundtrack I'd already own, but I was still excited to hear the songs from Adam's band. I know it's not going to be everyone's cup of tea (it did take me a bit to decide whether I actually liked it or not), but I think they nailed down what I had expected from a popular high school band that's still developing their sound. The film also has a great cover of The Smashing Pumpkin's song Today.

7. Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85: 1. Adagio - Moderato by Jacqueline du Pré, London Symphony Orchestra & Sir John Barbirolli
Since The Brothers Karamazov takes more focus than usual to read, I've had to be more selective with the type of music I listen to while reading. Anything with lyrics distracts me too much from the words at hand, and I catch myself zoning into the music more so than the book. After reading If I Stay I felt inspired to listen to more cello music and this famous Elgar concerto performed by Jacqueline du Pré was a great place to start.

8. Afire Love by Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran is another artist that can do no wrong in my book. Pretty much everything he's released, I've felt a connection to. He's such a talented musician.

9. The Last Thing On My Mind by Stark Sands ft. Punch Brothers (Inside Llewyn Davis Soundtrack)
It wasn't really a surprise to me that I loved this film or it's soundtrack. A good folk song always gets me. I watched the film back around Oscar times, but wasn't able to get my hands on this album until last month.

10. Two Fingers by Jake Bugg
I first discovered Jake Bugg when his song Simple As This was on The Fault In Our Stars Soundtrack. That song quickly became one of my new favorites and I knew I had to get my hands on more of his music. Bugg has a unique voice that really sets his music apart from other songs of his kind. Bugg released a few albums now and they're all gold nuggets.

What's your favorite music from this summer? What songs have you been loving lately?