Friday, December 30, 2011

Why 2011 was my favorite year

2011 was very kind to me and I dare say it was my favorite year - ever.
Happy 2011!
Kicked off the New Year at one of my best friends house, a tradition we have had since 8th grade, where her family makes paella and other delicious traditional Spanish dishes for family and friends. I returned to Charleston for spring semester and it was the first time I wanted to go back, huge step for me. Also made some cute window bunting to decorate my cold dorm room.
Valentine's Cake Pops I
This month is usually the coldest and most uninspiring for me, but I kept busy working at Forever 21, falling in love with Adele all over again, perfecting my granola recipe, making crayon hearts for my window, and Valentine's cake pops for all my friends and loved ones.
Balcony in French Quarter
March was synonymous with the Big Easy because of going to Mardi Gras for Spring Break. It was the first time I had no expectations going into something and for that, was rewarded with a carefree, happiness-filled trip. We wandered around the French Quarter, begged for beads in the colorful parades, and danced in the middle of the street. I made a stop-motion film about our trip. It was a release we all needed.
Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
As the last full month of school, April is always frantic and flies by. I saw a wonderful production of Pride and Prejudice at my school, made some Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies for an Easter picnic with my friends and made an initiative to start cooking for like Mediterraneans do.
Sahara Desert
I took off for my study abroad program in Morocco, a beautiful and life altering experience. I feel so blessed to have gone on this adventure. We shopped in the souks of Marrakech, rode a camel in the Sahara Desert at dawn to watch the sun rise over the dunes, ate lots of couscous, explored the Mediterranean side of Morocco, wandered around a city painted in blue, acquired a stomach bug along the way, and took political science and literature classes in Tangier, our base. Morocco is the most exciting thing I have ever seen and done. I made stop- motions about my trip here and here.
Ended my trip to Morocco with an evening in Madrid before flying to thte States the next morning. It made me thirsty for more Spain. When I returned home I went back to work at my cake decorating job and caught up with high school friends. Made a summer to-do list and saw Midnight in Paris while smiling the whole time. Spent my evenings watching 30 Rock and Parks and Rec (and The Hills, unfortunately) on Netflix. Kept me entertained all summer.
Started an internship at Anthropologie, helping with their window displays. Drove to Charleston for July 4th for a friend's 21st. Saw Florence and the Machine live at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Made a traditional Moroccan tagine and homemade yogurt, both things I had been wanting to try for a long time. Wanderlusted by daydreaming a list of travel destinations. Took long walks in the countryside where I live, at sunset.
Broad St.
The month I most despise because of the impossible humidity levels in Charleston and everywhere else in the south. I finished up my internship at Anthroplogie and turned in my portfolio. Returned to Charleston for one more year and moved into a 100 year old house with 6 friends, a cat and a fish. It has been both entertaining and unproductive school-wise.
Homemade Snickers
Even though it didnt feel like fall, I tried my best to celebrate it. I finished decorating my room and fell in love with my cushion-y bed that feels like a marshmallow. I was cast in my first play at college, Almost, Maine and worked with very talented, hilarious people. Made some Homemade Snickers and wanderlusted some more...
Always my favorite month - crisper weather and changing leaves. Almost, Maine opened to great reviews, it was a great learning experience acting-wise and I bonded with the terrific cast. One of my best friends from high school came to see the opening and visit Charleston in jam-packed days. Went back home for a relaxing fall break, made delicious Creamy Mexican Soup, and crafted my Dios de los muertos Halloween costume.
Germany '07
I was busy with my internship with an event planner on the weekends, helping with weddings. November is another month that seems to slip by. I went to Montgomery to spend Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family, it was equally funny and sentimental. Proudly started listening to Christmas music...
Marion Square
I always wished Christmas season lasted longer. Why cant we start in September? Anyways, I always make a Christmas to-do list and barely accomplish it because of how hectic the month is. I squeezed in some time to frolic about in twinkly lights, host a Lumberjack Christmas Party and work at my job at home. Spent a quiet Christmas in Montgomery with my grandparents and reminisced with old friends over margaritas and seafood burritos back home in Atlanta.
2008 was a transition year of acceptance and growth, 2009 was perhaps my least favorite year ever and 2010 was stable, enjoyable, but kind of boring.
2011 was exciting! traveling domestically and abroad, bonding with people and branching out through study-abroad and the theatre department, expanding my resume, finally having a great living situation in college, and feeling loved and supported through all of this by my family and beautiful friends. I couldn't ask for a more fantastic year and I am forever grateful for it.
Who knows what 2012 will bring, it is so unpredictable to know where I will be this time next year. "2012" has always brought upon anxiety for more reasons than the world supposedly ending. Graduating in May is a fact, so many major life decisions are soon to be made. It might be a stressful and taxing year (literally), adjusting to post-grad life in the real world, but I am sorta-ready, scared and hopeful.

Thanks for reading my blog this year! I wish you an exciting 2012.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Best Albums of 2011

Here, in my opinion are the best albums of 2011 and why:

fleet foxes helplessness blues
Best Album of the Year: Fleet Foxes Helplessness Blues
I was afraid their sophomore would be a slump compared to their amazing debut, but they proved me quite wrong. Perhaps it is because I had this album on repeat while driving through Morocco, so it evokes memories and beautiful scenery to me, but I feel as though I would make me feel that way otherwise. The songs are warm, inviting, give you the feeling of invincibly and are reminiscent of the in-between time of summer and fall, an Indian summer, like the way the sun gives off that golden glow or the crisp, awake mornings.

"I was raised up believing I was somehow unique
Like a snowflake distinct among snowflakes
Unique in each way you can see
And now after some thinking I'd say I'd rather be
A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me"
- Helplessness Blues

Check out: "Cascades" a lovely Spanish guitar interlude, "Someone You'd Admire" where Fleet Foxes' harmonizing is prime, and "Grown Ocean" an energetic song that makes you feel as though you could conquer the world.
2nd: Feist Metals
Lyrically, Feist is at her best with this album. It's less commercial than her previous album and I applaud her for that. Songs that I preciously didn't care for on the album, soon became stuck in my head, making me give this album a 12/12. It's far more mysterious than her last album, making sense of all the video previews for the album were in black and white. It's captures the album's mood perfectly. Fans who loved The Reminder weren't disappointed either, there is still a sweetness to her songs and a sense of nostalgia. Each song is just as catchy as "1,2,3,4."

"Whispers in the grass
Under slow dancing trees
Birds are telling me stories
Saying you were meant for me
With their bittersweet melodies
Like a sweet memory"
- Bittersweet Melodies

Check out: "Cicadas and Gulls" my favorite on the album and twanged with just a hint of Southern sweet tea, "The Circle Married the Line" is cute and French-esque, and "The Bad in Each Other" is a sweeping, beautiful opener for Metals.
3rd: Florence and the Machine Ceremonials - Deluxe Version
Bloody Brilliant and Epic. Flo stays true to her sound, while still exploring new territories. The harp is still present, her signature sound, but she adds some new tricks. On Ceremonials, Flo is more Stevie Nicks and Kate Bush than ever. She delves into some Gospel/Voodoo/New Orleans Jazz and the porcelain-faced, fiery ginger pulls it off. Each song has major percussion and creates a theme all it's own. All songs compel you to dance in your own fashion and preferably around a fire pit, fitting for the magical, bewitching spell Florence casts.

"There's no salvation for me now,
No space among the clouds,
And I've seen that I'm heading down,
But that's alright"
- Lover to Lover

Check out: "What the Water Gave Me" a sexy song that summarizes her new sound, "Only if For a Night" an opener that sets the scene for the album, and "Never Let Me Go" is a powerful ballad, that is equally epic and 80's
4th: Adele 21
Had this album not been so overplayed on Top 40 radio, it would have probably been #1 for me, but overbearing repetition ruins songs for me. However, 21 was a solid and beautifully crafted album. It was sassy, mature and has become an instant classic. Her attention has so rightfully been deserved this year. Adele's songwriting and voice is at a peek, a very long peak I feel. Her songs relate to her audience of all ages, sign of a truly gifted writer.

"I hate to turn up out of the blue uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it.
I had hoped you'd see my face and that you'd be reminded
That for me it isn't over."
- Someone Like You

Check out: "Set Fire to the Rain" is a perfect song to go running to, and hopefully while it's raining, "Take it All" Adele + a piano + a choir of Adeles, and "Turning Tables" is heart-breaking, sweeping and swelling.
5th: Lady Gaga Born This Way - Deluxe Version
I am indeed a Little Monster, making this album seem a strange choice compared to the other bests of the year. It would take a whole other post to tell you about WHY I love her so much, but in short I think she is brilliant and hilarious. This album is a bit all over the place, but that is why we love Gaga. She knows how to write a hook that gets stuck in your head for weeks. On Born This Way she proves how talented of a singer she is, more so than on The Fame. I love Gaga best when her music is live and is stripped to just her piano and her voice. That's when her lyrics really come alive and you understand how talented she really is.

"I just wanna be myself,
And I want you to love me for who I am
I just wanna be myself,
And I want you to know, I am my Hair"
- Hair

Check Out: "Marry the Night" is by far my favorite on the album and is very Whitney, "Schiebe" is a women-empowering sexy dance track, and "You and I" truly showcases her diverse style and range as an artist.
6th: Bon Iver Bon Iver
Justin Vernon created a masterpiece, a compilation of songs that best serve another when listened in order, listening to one individually, you just cant appreciate the album fully. This is an artist who has gone into completely new territory, some easy listening, some less so, but he evolved and I was happy to see that he didn't play it safe. The quiet hush of the snow covered woods is still omnipresent on this album, after all Bon Iver translates to "Good Winter" and what a wonderful winter he portrays. Solidarity and snowflakes overcast his sound, in the most perfect way.

"Iʼm tearing up, across your face
Move dust through the light
To find your name
It's only faint
This is not a place
Not yet awake, I'm raised to make
Still alive for you, love"
- Perth

Check out: "Holocene" is serene as a first dusting of snow, "Wash" a delicate beauty and "Michicant" is a waltzy memory
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7th: Lykke Li Wounded Rhymes
Lykke is like Barbarella on this album, feisty and thirsty and ready to fight. Wounded Rhymes has a strong 60's vibe to it, in the saltiest of ways. Lykke's on stage wardrobe matches the futuristic feel of the movie as well. Strong percussion and hints of Middle Eastern instruments guide this sexy, strong album along. Her childlike voice will haunt you.

"These scars of mine make wounded rhymes tonight
I dream of times when you were mine so I
Can keep it like a haunting
Heart beating close to mine"
- Sadness is a Blessing

Check out: "I Follow Rivers" a catchy tribal beat, "Youth Knows No Pain" that salty 60's sound, and "Love Out of Lust" is breezy and uplifting, Lykke style.
What were your favorite albums of 2011?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lumberjack Christmas Party

This year's Christmas party was a break from the formality of last year's Cocktail Party, we hosted a Lumberjack Christmas Party. Everyone was comfy and warm in their Lumberjack and Lumberjill flannel shirts and the woodland environment of a lumberjack/jill seemed to be the perfect Christmas theme to me. Deer, tree stumps, plaid flannel, pancakes, and other breakfast foods served as the inspiration for the party.
Thanks to Pinterest, an uncommon theme was supported by tons of ideas and inspiration.
pancake ginerbread
Because making fresh pancakes for so many people would have been messy and time consuming, we decided to make gingerbread cookies that looked like pancakes. I use this recipe every year to make my gingerbread. It's a tradition for me. To make them look like pancakes, I cut them in different sized circles, using cups and tubberware and then once cooled, melted some chocolate to pour over them like syrup. I made the Royal Icing to make a pat of butter on the top of each one.
Lit lanterns and real pinecones completed the wood-sy look
owl candle
I made roll-ups using store-bought spinach dip, ham, cut bell peppers and cheddar cheese on flour and tomato wraps. My father cut these stumps to serve the food on, I covered the surface with parchment paper before putting the food on it though.
My mom took down her curtains and instead hung some live greenery, flocked with snow
I made some Grown-up Hot Chocolate with Homemade Bailey's Marshmallows and kept it warm in a crock-pot.
For dinner we served Baked Cheese Grits, Grilled Sausages and Caramelized Onions as the main dish.
For dessert, we had my dad's famous Liege Waffles that he re-created from his trips to Belgium and s'more by the fire.
Basically, NO ONE left hungry.
These acorns were made with Hershey kisses, vanilla wafers and peanut butter chips. Melted chocolate held it all together.
deer mount
My dad cut this awesome deer trophy out of wood using this template.
A cheeseball covered with almonds to resemble a pinecone.
It was a fun, comfortable and successful party! We also had a "photobooth" where we taped up some plaid wrapping paper on the wall and had some silly Christmas props and hats for people to wear.
It's strange not knowing exactly where I will be this time next year once I completely fly away from the nest (going to college is just halfway). No longer will I be able to come home for 4 weeks during Christmas and be able to help plan this party. That is the bewilderment that I believe will sum up my 2012. But for now...

I wish you a very Merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mixtape Mondays: Christmas Mix Vol.4

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Christmastime doesn't last long enough, especially in Charleston, I blink and the holiday has already melted and evaporated faster, much like the South's snow, it practically melts before it hits the ground.
Christmas is 4 days away and I still have a Lumberjack-themed Christmas Party to throw and presents to buy, but I enjoy Christmas all the way through the New Year's (and then some, until someone tells me to turn off the music).
Here's to one last (?) Christmas playlist:

1. Christmastime is Here - Meaghan Smith
2. The Hat - Ingrid Michaelson
3. Little Saint Nick - She & Him
4. Christmas Must Be Tonight - Bahamas
5. Maybe This Christmas - Ron Sexsmith
6. Star of Wonder - Sufjan Stevens
7. The Christmas Song - Catherine Feeny
8. Woe Be - Feist
9. Get Down for the Holidays - Jenny O
10. No Christmas for Me - Zee Avi
11. Let it Snow - A Fine Frenzy

(These pictures are of Marion Square in Charleston, we wanted a study break so we frolicked about in the Christmas lights)
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