Thursday, January 29, 2015

thanks for waiting for me

Last Friday we took a semi spontaneous trip to New York City and it was a lovely little weekend. We came across cheap flights one night in December and decided to book the trip because you only live once. I'm so glad we did. My heart often aches for the east coast and especially this crazy, bustling city. We had the chance to meet up with old and new friends and even welcomed the beginnings of the not so blizzard Juno.
We flew into LaGuardia at 8 PM and went to The Meatball Shop with friends. I was happy to try TMS because 2 Christmases ago I wanted so badly to have lunch there but it was closed or something because we went the day after Christmas. We stayed with our friends Dustin and Kari Drees on the Upper East Side.
Saturday morning Kari and I woke up bright and early to get our butts kicked at Soul Cycle. I'm obsessed with this trendy spin class and would love love love if they opened one in Dallas. I think it would do really well here because we have a lot of rich sorority girls who care a lot about their bodies and expensive fitness. After Soul Cycle we ventured to Nolita and had brunch at Jack's Wife Freda. I heard a lot about this place aka saw many pics on Instagram via my girls Karlie, Chrissy and Taylor so I just had to try it. Confession: it's not worth the 1-3 hour wait, but it was a yummy, fresh, Mediterranean experience. We dodged the super long wait time by a miracle cuz we met up with friends Jadyn and Sean McGrath who got to the restaurant a little bit after us and were told they could have a table if we showed up in 10 mins. So we hustled and ate.

After brunch we visited the Saturdays NYC shop because #menswear. Apparently the store has a reputation for having terrible customer service from a bunch of dudes too cool for school. It lived up to its rep, but that didn't stop me from dropping $20 on a graphic tee, my ultimate weakness. After Saturdays we went to visit the civil engineering marvel that is the Brooklyn Bridge. Preston narrated a history for us while we walked back and forth and admired the structure. It really is an awesome bridge and I love how pedestrian friendly it is. After the Brooklyn Bridge we visited the 9/11 Memorial and parted ways with Jadyn and Sean.
My parents got into the city Saturday afternoon and while we were waiting for them to finish up at the temple, we went the Dover Street Market. Preston found out about this place and explained to me beforehand that it was basically a giant showroom of designers' recent collections-- Prada, Commes des Garcon, Alexander Wang, Jil Sander, Rick Owens, etc. Basically it was a dream house for me cuz lots of FW14 pieces were on display to touch and potentially buy (lol). If you like clothes, hit this place up. After Dover, we met up with my parents at a Filipino/Thai restaurant called Pig and Khao.

Before leaving, we scanned concert sites for any fun shows that would be going on during our stay and saw that Kap Slap would be at Webster Hall. He's a fun mashup DJ and for $25, we decided to go. Our friends Deb and Rique agreed to join us, which was perfect since they were regulars at our Provo IDPs. It was fun re-living our Provo days, despite being surrounded by 16 year olds making out for dear life. It was pretty hilarious and I am in awe of the upcoming generation and genuinely wondered if I was as weird/disgusting/annoying.

Sunday morning we met my parents for church and WE SAW TAZA AND TIESANDFRIES. I mean Naomi and Josh and their darling children. I didn't realize until 30 minutes into sacrament and then I spotted them and forgot to breathe. Apparently my parents were in the elevator with Josh and babies and exchanged good mornings. Eleanor and Samson were very shy hehehe. Preston was embarrassed of me, but it made my morning.
After starstruck sacrament, we went to brunch at Jacob's Pickles. You guys, this place is goooood. It's Southern food which you'd think I'd be sick of by now but oh my goodness best fried chicken of my life. Also true to the name, the pickles are fantastic. We actually had the sampler which was pickles and pickled carrots and green beans of assorted flavors. Really great meal, worth the hour wait. After brunch we went to the Museum of Natural History to kill time before seeing the New York City Ballet perform 3 Balanchine movements. This was one of my favorite thing we did. As a retired ballerina, I was mesmerized by the grace and strength of the men and women of NYCB and I reminisced on my own dancing days. I had never been to the Lincoln Center either, which was a beautiful sight in itself.


Following the ballet, we hopped over to Magnolia's to secure the famous and incredible banana pudding as well as cupcakes and a magic bar (I swear it was called that). From Magnolia's we had dinner at a Greek restaurant called Kefi. This place was ok, but we had a super tiny table in a corner despite having a reservation and arriving when there was plenty of other tables. The food was good, but nothing spectacular, but alas. Now we know. We said goodbye to my parents and took the subway back to Dustin and Kari's to enjoy our Magnolia spoils.

Monday morning, Juno morning. I forgot to mention that while we were at the ballet we got an email that our 8 pm Monday flight was canceled. Thankfully we were able to book a 1 pm flight to Dallas, but it cut our trip short about 6 hours. We woke up early, got me a bagel and headed to the Guggenheim. This was the most depressing part of the trip because 1) it was frigid cold and I literally uttered the words, "I want to die" repeatedly 2) Guggenheim is being renovated so only the bottom floor was available to tour and you couldn't go into any of the spirals. We were sad because the Guggenheim was the one museum we definitely wanted to hit and spend the most time in, but it was a blessing in disguise because we wouldn't have had much time anyway and we were able to go to Laduree. I got my delicious overpriced macarons and we did a quick walk through of the Ralph Lauren mansion before taking 2 buses back to LaGuardia.



It was stressful watching the snow fall from the airport and even more stressful when we were packed like sardines on the plane and still hadn't moved for 45 minutes. Thankfully we were able to safely make our way back to Dallas, which was a tropical 72F when we landed. I was actually kind of depressed about it.

New York was a ball and it was so nice to see so many friends in such a short amount of time and great to hang out with my parents.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

the empathy exams


First book of 2015 was a great one. In my Goodreads review of The Empathy Exams I said that it could be re-named "How to Feel Feelings" so all you hardcore feelers of feelings out there... this one's for you. And all you icy cold robots (my husband) you could learn a thing or two from this one.

The Empathy Exams is a brilliant collection of essays on seemingly unrelated topics like abortion, Mexican narcotics wars, Morgellons Disease and artificial sweeteners and the suffering that takes place within these different situations and settings. Leslie Jamison focuses on how we as individuals feel pain, react to it, how we empathize with one another and ultimately how empathizing makes us better humans. Often, Jamison reflects on her own reactions to things and how they can be appropriate or wildly inappropriate to a particular situation. There's a lot of brutal honesty, embarrassing selfishness and utter helplessness in these pages. There was also a lot of personal reflection for me, and moments when I realized my own naïveté of the world around me and the immense suffering that occurs everyday that I have never and probably will never experience.

That being said, this book is not a downer, but you probably don't believe me now. My favorite kind of writing is that which puts to words feelings and thoughts you have always had but could never verbalize and Leslie Jamison did this over and over again for me. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:

Empathy isn't just something that happens to us-- a meteor shower of synapses firing across the brain-- it's also a choice we make: to pay attention, to extend ourselves. It's made of exertion, that dowdier cousin of impulse. Sometimes we care for another because we know we should, or because it's ask for, but this doesn't make our caring hollow. The act of choosing simply means we've committed ourselves to a set of behaviors greater than the sum of our individual inclinations: I will listen to his sadness, even when I'm deep in my own. To say going through the motions-- this isn't reduction so much as acknowledgment of effort-- the labor, the motions, the dance-- of getting inside another person's state of heart or mind.

A cry for attention is positioned as the ultimate crime, clutching or trivial-- as if "attention" were inherently a selfish thing to want. But isn't wanting attention one of the most fundamental traits of being human-- and isn't granting it one of the most important gifts we can ever give?

I got through this one quickly and you probably will too. I'll be very surprised if this doesn't make my top 10 by the end of the year. Happy reading! And here's to a new year of new books!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

monthly playlist: january


1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10 // 11

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

preston's top 20 songs of 2014

Here are Preston's top song picks of 2014:

Great use of the children's choir and very sweet, simple lyrics.

This is a match made in chillwave heaven (a place that is kind of fun to imagine).  I love the little bridge section at around 2:10, where it sounds like we are sitting in a chillwave cathedral, about to ascend!

I didn't know until recently that this was a Spice Girls cover, but that kind of makes it even cooler. My memory of this song will always be hearing MO as we filed into Zilker Park for ACL (even though we arrived to late to really see any of MO's set).

A surprising/questionable collaboration when first announced, this song was about the best outcome anyone could have hoped for. I think CH showcased HAIM pretty favorably in this catchy tune.

In their latest album they added a few instruments and departed a little from their signature lo-fi sound, but managed to keep the vintage feel of their music, which I really enjoy.

Speaking of vintage sound, no one this year captured that as purely as Leon Bridges. This song comes fresh out of a time machine from the 50s and wouldn't sound out of place in my grandparent's record collection.

It would be a lie to not include a Sam Smith track on this list.  He had a bunch of popular songs this year, but this was the real show stopper when we got to see him in October. 

RAC can do no wrong. His remixes seem so simple, but he must have some kind of special touch because no one can remake a song like Andre.  I see on Soundcloud that this song is now streaming on the Hollister Vibe 2015 playlist but that only makes me like it more.  

I've been on an "ewok" kick lately and this song sounds like a jungle thumping Endor dance party with an all ewok percussion section.

Great summer jam - bouncy synth, catchy lyrics, that little xylophone thing - when I listen to this song, I sometimes pretend that I'm playing that xylophone in a "more cowbell" type skit.

I have a pretty soft spot for joyous disco-pop and I love that down-to-earth quality that his voice has.

Amazing mastering or arrangement or whatever...insert random audio production words...the song just feel spatially enormous, like it was performed in a giant white room with glittery strobe lights pulsing and flashing.  

This song is just pure energy and joy. Kev pointed out they have an Imagine Dragons-type sound and I think they will break out in 2016 - their other single, "Break My Fall" was also excellent and has had some great remixes made of it. 

One of Guetta's first forays into funk, and I think he nailed it.  

I love the unexpected rhythm of this song, it catches you on the wrong foot, but in a good way.  It has a some moody drums, horn-like synths and great diva vocals.  The synth kind of bursts out of the haze, and reminds me a lot of Jai Paul.

This will be the theme song for the Mars remake of Miami Vice.  It's a layered slow build, a perfect, subtle, nudisco masterpiece.  Terje's whole album "It's Album Time" is fantastic, and one of my all-time fav live concert videos is of another track (originally released in 2012, or it would have been on this list) from the album.

I find the harmonies and that dancing bass line in this song just addictive. Another simple, subtle, phenomenal remix from Andre.

Best debut single of the year. Seriously, she comes out guns a blazin' in this one, showcasing her great voice and some pretty stellar production. I'm excited to hear what Kev has to say about this one, he liked it as well and is the best pop analyst I know. 

Holy smokes. What a remix. There is just nothing wrong with this song. Nothing at all.  Abel's croon. Kygo's snaps and silky synth on the backbeats.  Just brilliant.

This song makes me wiiiild.


Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 in books

I read 51 books in 2014 and ranked them from the worst to the best, in my opinion.


51. Olive Kitteridge- Elizabeth Strout Truly agonizing. The main character was a grump and entire book was a bore.

50. Rant- Chuck Palahniuk Chuck is very hit or miss for me and this is the worst book I've read by him so far. I feel like it was written primarily for shock value and nothing else. It's a gross narrative about a serial killer, which sounds kind of interesting, but it's mostly disgusting.

49. It- Alexa Chung Save yourself $18 and search "Alexa Chung" in Tumblr. You will probably find every image and unoriginal quote in this book for free.

48. Beautiful Ruins- Jess Walter Another snooze and spanned too many time periods. Plot lines and characters got confusing and I didn't care about either.

47. Absurdistan- Gary Shteyngart I loved Super Sad True Love Story, but this was nothing like it. The main character is an appalling, overweight and self-absorbed brat who only cared about eating gluttonously and sex.

46. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey- Jill Bolte Taylor Great if you read on a 3rd grade reading level. There were a few interesting narratives about Dr. Taylor's memories of having a stroke, but told in such a juvenile manner, I think I finished this book in a few hours.

45. Catch-22- Joseph Heller I remember so little from this book except that it took place during the war. Oops.

44. The Orphan Master's Son- Adam Johnson Difficult to follow and mostly depressing.

43. Sharp Objects- Gillian Flynn After reading Gone Girl I was stoked to read another Gillian Flynn, but this one was wildly underwhelming. It was predictable and unbelievable, in the not realistic sense, not amazing sense.

42. The Light Between the Oceans- M.L. Stedman I heard so many great things about this book but was very disappointed upon completion. This read like a bad young adult romance tailored to a 13 year old girl.

41. Under the Banner of Heaven- John Krakauer Interesting read but lots of inaccuracies.

40. When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management- Roger Lowenstein This was my attempt at understanding hedge funds and the facts behind "Wolf of Wall Street." I was still confused after finishing this book, but it has great reviews and probably makes sense if you are legitimately interested in finance.

39. Not That Kind of Girl- Lena Dunham Lena Dunham is a conundrum to me because I think she's wildly intelligent but does stupid things and is sometimes an infuriating human being. She's a great writer but there's nothing in this book that hasn't already been said in some other white girl's memoir or shown in an episode of GIRLS. Definitely entertaining though and probably an enjoyable one if you're a big GIRLS and/or Lena.

38. The Time Traveler's Wife- Audrey Niffenegger Very easy read. Smooth writing and read like a better Nicholas Sparks.

37. The Edible Woman- Margaret Atwood I feel like I only got a small fraction of the feminist analogies of this one, but I thought it was interesting and definitely unique.

36. Yes Please- Amy Poehler So technically I listened to this book, which is what I would recommend. I think it would be a little boring if you just read it and Amy is a great narrator. Kind of like Lena Dunham's book, this didn't have anything that hasn't already been said in some other witty girl's memoir, but there were a lot of parts that made me laugh out loud and I love anything Amy does.

35. White Noise- Don Delillo An interesting read because there were passages that were so perfectly written and thought-provoking, but then I would read 50 pages and wonder why I should care what Don Delillo was trying to say. The characters in this book are very annoying and the plot is anticlimactic, but there are snippets of great writing.

34. Pastoralia- George Saunders A series of pretty funny short stories, but once you read one, you read them all. Lots of satire on society and government.

33. On Beauty- Zadie Smith Oh my gosh how I hated the family in this book. They were all so annoying and obsessed with themselves. But the setting is a collegiate Boston town and descriptions and some dialogue made me want to keep reading.

32. In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto- Michael Pollan No, not my memoir. Ha. Ha. Michael Pollan is an excellent food/health writer. I read The Omnivore's Dilemma in 2013 and loved it. There's lots of great tips in this book that are realistic and you learn a lot about the food you consume on a daily basis. Sadly I have yet to read a book that truly alters my mediocre eating habits.

31. Mere Christianity- C.S. Lewis I figured I needed to read some nonfiction from the most quoted by General Authorities non-Mormon. Lots of passages I've come across in religion classes and great insight on Christianity as a whole.

30. Thinking in Pictures: My Life With Autism- Temple Grandin Learning about autism, especially its origins, was one of my favorite parts in my undergrad speech classes. Temple Grandin is an incredible human being and revolutionized modern-day farming despite her struggles with her disorder.

29. S.- J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst Definitely the most original book I've read this year. There's a lot going on in this book- letters that fall out, random postcards and a journal passed between 2 different writers. The story itself is nothing too wild or unbelievable, but the concept is why I enjoyed this book.

28. Orange is the New Black- Piper Kerman Must-read if you're a fan of the show because you can pick out the inspiration behind certain characters and events. This was a really moving memoir and gave me a different perspective on the criminal justice system in the United States, especially among nonviolent offenders.

27. The Confessions of Max Tivoli- Andrew Shaun Greer This is the Benjamin Button story (but apparently neither author knew of the other) but I loved this because of the beautiful and sometimes heart-wrenching lines and passages. I like to feel feelings and this book does that to you.

26. The Hot Zone- Richard Preston Terrifying read. I chose to start it amidst the ebola outbreaks in Dallas which was a great and terrible idea. Fascinating and horrifying.

25. The Know-It-All- AJ Jacobs The second AJ Jacobs book I've read and another great experiment turned story. This time he takes on the task of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from A-Z. All of his books are entertaining and laugh out loud funny. You also learn a bunch of random facts from this one.

24. Ariel- Sylvia Plath I read the most poetry I've ever read since high school this year. As someone who enjoys dabbling in the #dark arts, I liked The Bell Jar so I thought I'd give her poems a try. This is a great collection of darkly witty, tumultuous and bitingly sarcastic poems. My favorite was The Rival.

23. Crush- Richard Siken This poet uses vivid, raw imagery to illustrate desperation and obsession. Lots of feelings and the line: You feel your heart taking root in your body, like you've discovered something you don't even have a name for depicted my feelings after finishing this book.

22. The Story of a Marriage- Andrew Shaun Greer More feelings. More heart-wrenching. This book put into words a lot of what I feel and think about relationships and love.

21. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver I had a hard time getting into this book, but when I did I couldn't put it down. It's about a white southern family who moves to Africa to become missionaries. Told in the different perspectives of each family member which kept the story interesting and fresh.

20. The Year of Living Biblically- AJ Jacobs Probably my favorite AJ Jacobs because this one lets the reader see how his experiments affect his family, particularly his wife. In this one he commits a year of his life to following the teachings of the Bible as exactly and literally as possible.

19. The Captain's Verses- Pablo Neruda Poems about the best and worst aspects of a relationship. Poems to mourn the absence of a relationship and revel in the joys of being in one. So basically everyone can read these verses and feel something.

18. David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants- Malcolm Gladwell One of my favorite nonfiction authors and another great collection of unique circumstances and studies dealing with the advantages of being an underdog.

17. Nothing to Envy- Barbara Demick Fascinating and unbelievable read about the lives of North Koreans and the journeys they take to leave their country. I learned so much about North Korea and was amazed at how completely frozen in time the nation is. A timely read in lieu of the recent release of a certain James Franco/Seth Rogen film...

16. The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew and the Heart of the Middle East- Sandy Tolan I am always eager to learn more about the Middle East and better understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and this is a great historical account of the conflict told through the eyes of an Arab boy and Jewish girl.

15. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage- Haruki Murakami There is something about Murakami that makes me want to read all of his books, despite their blatant similarities to one another. This book was very much like Norwegian Wood- brooding young Japanese man, beautiful mentally disturbed Japanese woman, reoccurring ballad from the 60s, mysterious occurrence from the past that brings all the characters together. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it's one of the most beautiful book covers I've ever seen.

14. Norwegian Wood- Haruki Murakami This is one of 2 books I re-read this year, but I think it still counts as a book. Basically all the same thoughts as above^ but this one was a little bit more heartbreaking/wrenching so I liked it more.

13. The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement- David Brooks Really interesting read about the role of the human subconscious in everyday life decisions. It's told through a fictional narrative but has real studies interspersed with the imaginary characters and setting. It was like I was reviewing my favorite topics from AP Psych plus a lot of new facts and studies.

12. Marching Powder- Rusty Young Maybe the craziest story I read this year. There is a prison in Bolivia where you can take tours and stay overnight and try cocaine while you're there. The San Pedro prison in Bolivia has a more stable economy than the country of Bolivia itself. This is the story of a reporter who stayed for months in the prison and got to know Thomas McFadden, the most famous prison tour guide.

11. Where'd You Go Bernadette?- Maria Semple Fun, easy read about a woman who goes missing in a WASPy Seattle suburb. The writing is witty and laugh out loud good and the characters are complex and interesting. Don't let the cute cover and Oprah stamp of approval fool you- it's actually a great read with smart humor and memorable characters.

10. In My Country- Abraham Verghese After reading Cutting for Stone I still wasn't over Abraham Verghese. This is his memoir about being an infectious diseases specialist in Johnson City, Tennessee. He primarily worked with AIDS patients in a time when the disease was hardly seen on the east coast or south and when the negative AIDS/HIV stigma was still highly prevalent in the United States. He talks about the relationships and experiences he has with patients and I felt an overwhelming sense of sympathy and admiration for his work.

9. The Art of Fielding- Chad Harbach So much more than baseball (thank goodness). A story about the fleeting nature of talent and the lives and struggles of the members of a close knit collegiate community on the shores of Lake Michigan. Think Friday Night Lights but baseball.

8. This is Water- David Foster Wallace: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life DFW's 2005 commencement address at Kenyon College. This should be mandatory reading for everyone with a 5th grade reading level but particularly for anyone ages 16-30. Thoughts on how to live your life and stop being so damn obsessed with yourself.

7. Super Sad True Love Story- Gary Shteyngart Loved this book! Such an interesting concept and funny satire on our iPhone obsessed generation. It takes place in the future United States and the main characters communicate strictly on mobile devices. It pokes fun at our need to know everything about everyone and constantly compare ourselves to one another. Funny, sad and eerily prophetic.

6. The New Kings of Nonfiction- Ira Glass This is actually a collection of essays and short stories from some of the greatest minds in nonfiction. I learned so much from this book and every story was well-done, articulate and entertaining. It's like "This American Life" greatest hits in book form.

5. Lonesome Dove- Larry McMurtry I subjected myself to quite a few lengthy epics this year, but this one was worth the time. If you read one book about Texas, let it be this one. The characters are true cowboys and it's the Wild West. Great dialogue and lovable characters whose lives are memorable and complex despite their simple upbringings and homes.

4. Infinite Jest- David Foster Wallace I jumped right into DFW with this one and let me tell you, it was a rough few months. This is the most difficult work of fiction I've ever encountered because it is wildly complex. There are footnotes within footnotes and it's a staggering 1079 pages. However, its difficulty did not shield the genius of the work itself. I fully plan on revisiting this one in a year or 3, but for now I recognize it for what it is- a completely original, often hilarious, sometimes horrifying and always brilliant work of fiction.

3. Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov This is the second book I re-read this year and honestly one of my favorite books of all time. I know it's very cliche #dark girl of me to love Lolita, but it's hard not to marvel at Nabokov's ability to make the words of a villain/monster and quite frankly, child molester, into hauntingly romantic and flattering prose. I found so much humor in Humbert Humbert's self-deprecation and sarcastic wit, and didn't find it so unbelievable that Lolita fell for his charm. This is a classic that has stood the test of time and I think will continue to be read and discussed in literary circles for many years to come.

2. The Goldfinch- Donna Tartt This was the last book I read in 2014 and the second best. Another lengthy read, I was sad to be done with this one. It tells the story of Theo Decker, a young boy in New York who survives a bombing at the Met but loses his mother. He ends up taking a famous painting from the museum and carrying it with him for the majority of his life. The Goldfinch tells the story of Theo's life from teen to adulthood and his travels across the country and the people he meets who change his life forever. There's a lot of minute details in this one, but I kind of loved it for that because it made the imagery more vivid for me. Beautifully written and worthy of the 2014 Pulitzer for fiction.

1. Cutting for Stone- Abraham Verghese I wish I could unread my favorite books and experience the magic. This is definitely the case for Cutting for Stone. This book left me in so much awe and wonder at the world of medicine and for humanity in general. It starts with the birth of twin boys to a world famous surgeon and Ethiopian nun. The boys grow up in Ethiopia and pursue careers as physicians but their lives take them to different countries, but somehow events from their past and the unseen bond of twins join them together again. Beautiful prose that left me in tears upon completion. Read if you are in the medical field, are interested in medicine at all and/or enjoy a good love story or cry. My favorite book of 2014 and of all-time. And that is a big statement.

Thank you for reading with me. Hopefully you got some good suggestions from this list. I wish you all a great 2015 filled with wonderful, life-changing literature. I am always open to suggestions of any genre and you can bet I will post my favorites from this upcoming year on here.