We Barely Remember Who Or What Came Before This Precious Moment

Several weeks ago I made a Music Monday post featuring 20 songs that are (at least in my opinion) perfect for healing a broken heart.  Today I’ll be focusing on a completely different emotion: happiness.

Interestingly, a lot of songs that make me feel happy aren’t especially “happy” songs.  But, for whatever reason, these songs always put me in a good mood.  These are my top 20 “feel good” songs.

20.) Silver Lining – Rilo Kiley

19.) Us – Regina Spektor

18.) I Will Wait – Mumford & Sons

17.) Better Version of Me – Fiona Apple

16.) Feeling Good – Muse

15.) Daylight Robbery – Imogen Heap

14.) Shiny Happy People – R.E.M.

13.) Codes and Keys – Death Cab for Cutie

12.) Electioneering – Radiohead

11.) People Say – Portugal. The Man

10.) The Camper Velourium I: Faint of Hearts – Coheed and Cambria

9.) The Heinrich Maneuver – Interpol

8.) Sea Legs – The Shins

7.) Electric Feel – MGMT

6.) The Geeks Were Right – The Faint

5.) Hallways – Islands

4.) Summersong – The Decemberists 

3.) R U Mine? – Arctic Monkeys

2.) Junk Bond Trader – Elliott Smith

1.) In the Aeroplane Over the Sea – Neutral Milk Hotel

If anyone reading this cares to comment, what songs make you feel happy?

If She Weren’t Writing In Blood, She’d Bring Him Her Jokes

I realized recently that I haven’t written much about movies or TV shows I enjoy.  I actually watch a fair amount of movies and TV (mostly via Netflix since we cut our cable well over a year ago), but I just haven’t written much about it.

I decided to do a random list for this week’s Sunday Lists post, and thought it might be fun to write about some of my favorite characters.  I was originally going to open it to both TV and movies, but I’ve now decided to stick with only TV … I just thought the list could get way too long if I included both.  (I may make a couple of follow-up posts in the future, though, featuring my favorite characters from movies and literature.)

I realize that my taste in TV shows is quite literally all over the place.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I really love silly teen dramas like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars while still appreciating more “respectable” (at least for someone my age) shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad.  I think this will become pretty obvious as you read through my list.

This week’s list: My Top Ten Favorite TV Characters 

10.) George Costanza from Seinfeld

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Ahhh … The scrap of paper that proved too much for George’s morbidly obese friend.  Image courtesy of http://www.librarything.com.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always found George to be the best and funniest character on Seinfeld.  (And that’s saying a lot, because everyone on that show is hilarious!)  Poor George always seemed to get the short end of the stick when it came to, well, everything.  I always just wanted to give him a hug and tell him everything would be okay … Well, it probably would be.  But I wouldn’t want to cramp his style too much.  After all, I wouldn’t want to kill independent George!

9.) Rachel Green from Friends

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Awww … One of my favorite TV couples ever.  Image courtesy of http://www.extratv.com.

Friends was one of my favorite TV shows growing up, and I liked all of the main characters a lot.  There was something about Rachel, though, that I always appreciated.  I think part of it was the fact that she was the character who seemed to grow the most throughout the life of the series.  She went from spoiled rich girl to struggling waitress to finding her place with a career in fashion to being a mom.  And though the show was obviously goofy and over the top much of the time, Rachel was a character that seemed pretty “real” … Like she could actually be your best friend.

8.) Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years

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Seriously … How adorable is this?  Image courtesy of dailycaller.com.

This show, like the two previously mentioned, is an absolute classic in my eyes.  Kevin was the too adorable for words main character that I always hoped would have a happy ending with his childhood sweetheart, Winnie Cooper.  His experiences growing up on The Wonder Years made him one of the most genuinely relatable characters ever written for TV.

7.) Dan Humphrey from Gossip Girl

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I always loved the Dan/Serena relationship … Even when it got uncomfortably weird thanks to their parents.  Image courtesy of http://www.fanpop.com.

Despite their obvious flaws, I actually like the majority of the main characters on Gossip Girl.  Dan Humphrey was always my favorite, though.  He was fairly introverted and, for the most part, never really felt like he belonged, which made him seem much more human than any of the others.  He was also a writer, and I’m always especially drawn to characters who love writing as much as I do. 

6.) Aria Montgomerey from Pretty Little Liars

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I wish I could pull off some of the stuff she wears on the show!  Image courtesy of weheartit.com.

Pretty Little Liars is another of those shows that, despite their flaws, I actually really like all of the main characters.  Aria is my favorite, though.  I love her sense of style, her love for reading and writing, and her loyalty to those she loves.  She seems like the kind of person I’d be friends with in real life if she actually existed (and I was back in high school).

5.) Walter White from Breaking Bad

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I can’t believe this show is ending and I still haven’t gotten caught up.  No spoilers please!  Image courtesy of blogs.amctv.com.

Walter White is an interesting character because you just love him at the start of the series and then learn that maybe you should actually fear him as the show progresses.  I’ll admit that Eric and I haven’t finished watching all of the seasons of Breaking Bad, but thus far I’ve found Walter to be one of the most interesting and complex characters on TV.

4.) Michael Scott from The Office

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Michael Scott’s wishful thinking: World’s Best Boss.  Image courtesy of wikipedia.org.

The Office just wasn’t the same without Michael Scott.  Although there are many other awesome characters (some of my favorites include Dwight, Jim, and Pam), the show just sort of fell apart (at least in my opinion) when this character was written off.  He’s crazy, obnoxious, and generally a pretty awful person … But for some reason, I can’t help but like him.  He says the most random hilarious things, and makes everyone uncomfortable.  If I had a boss like Michael Scott, I’d want to leave my job immediately.  

3.) Dexter Morgan from Dexter

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He’s actually doing this for a good cause … I swear!  Image courtesy of blogs.pioneerlocal.com.

I love the character of Dexter Morgan.  He truly lives a double life, and constantly struggles with the darkness within himself.  He tries to use his murderous tendencies for good, which makes him one of the most interesting and, dare I say, lovable fictional serial killers ever created.  As a whole, Dexter is a great show, but the title character is what makes it amazing.

2.) Rory Gilmore from Gilmore Girls

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It’s no wonder I relate to this character … I mean, just look at what she’s reading in this picture!  Image courtesy of blog.nathanbransford.com.

Gilmore Girls has always been one of my favorite TV shows.  I started watching it in high school, and continued to follow it in college and after until it ended.  I always related to overachieving Rory, who was somewhat socially awkward, loved reading and coffee, and had a BFF relationship with her single mother.  The way the show was written, Rory was one year behind me in school … And though this may sound odd, it was kind of interesting to see how the character’s experiences were in relation to my own.  I own all seasons of this show on DVD and continue to watch it pretty regularly.  It’s a witty show with great characters that I hope to never tire of.

1.) Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City

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I was always jealous of Carrie’s job as a writer.  What an amazing life … Getting paid to write in one of my favorite cities in the U.S.  Image courtesy of http://www.heavenonbourke.com.

It’s probably extremely cliché to make a list of favorite TV characters with Carrie Bradshaw at the top, but I don’t care.  Sex and the City, though often over the top, was a great show.  And although many of the situations presented were much more dramatic than those I experienced, many were extremely relatable.  Carrie’s on-again-off-again relationship with Mr. Big was one of the most heartbreaking things for me to watch at a certain time in my life, mainly because so much of it rang true for me.  And, no surprise here, Carrie Bradshaw is yet another character I love with a passion for writing.  I know some people hate this character because she can be completely neurotic (among other things), but I’ve always loved her because, despite all the crazy drama on the show, she seemed so real.

Times Change, And People Change With Them … Some People Love To Play The Victim

Last year while I was attempting to complete the 50 book challenge, I read a lot of contemporary fiction.  When I’m looking for new books to read, this is usually what I gravitate toward.  In addition to contemporary fiction, I also tried to read a few nonfiction books and a few classic fiction novels.

While the book I’m about to review doesn’t qualify as a classic fiction novel, it is a classic set of short stories.  Stories, believe it or not, I had never read before.

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Image courtesy of http://www.goodreads.com.

The Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka

209 pages (including introduction and afterword)

I wanted to read Franz Kafka’s famous short story “The Metamorphosis” for quite some time, so I was excited when I found this collection of short stories during one of my visits to Half Price Books.  

I have a love/hate relationship with short story collections.  This is mostly because I generally love only a small portion of the stories.  The rest I either think are just okay or I hate them.  This has been the case with pretty much any short story collection I’ve ever read.  The same doesn’t hold true for collected essays/articles for some reason, though.  I guess with short stories I often feel like there should be more to them … The characters are usually blah and the story itself is obviously not well developed as there really wasn’t time for an author to do that in just a few pages.  There are some phenomenal short stories out there for sure (“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” by Joyce Carol Oates is a great example), but most are just … Okay.

Thankfully, Franz Kafka is a gifted storyteller and this comes through even in his short stories … Well, many of them.  I won’t lie … There were several stories in this collection that I read and thought, “Uhhh … Really?”  Or, even worse, there were several stories that were so boring I could barely bring myself to get through them (even though most weren’t more than 25 pages or so).  The stories that I enjoyed, though, I really enjoyed.  Those were:

  • “The Metamorphosis”
  • “The Judgment”
  • “In the Penal Colony”
  • “A Hunger Artist”

I won’t go into the plots of each short story, as that would probably take too long.  I would reread the stories I liked in the future, but I’d definitely skip over the ones that I found boring.  I will say that one of the stories, “A Country Doctor,” didn’t even make much sense to me.  I don’t know if this is due to differences in culture, time period, etc.  Maybe I’m just dumb?  I just … Didn’t understand it.  I reread the last couple of pages a few times as I was going through the story and it just seemed … Weird.  And not a good weird like “The Metamorphosis.”

I would recommend at least reading through “The Metamorphosis,” as it’s a classic.  I’m actually surprised it was never required reading for any of my classes in high school or college, but oh well … Better late than never, I suppose.

I would rate this story collection THREE STARS.  This is mostly based on the fact that there are several really interesting, really strong stories included … And those can outweigh the blah, nonsensical, or plain old shitty ones.

In A Struggle To Find Secret Songs That You Keep Wrapped In Boxes So Tight

This week’s Friday Lounge post is another installment of the 10 day blogging challenge.  I tweaked it a little because I wasn’t a huge fan of the original topic … But this is still similar.  Because it’s kind of a random topic, it seemed like a perfect Friday Lounge post.

This week I’ll be sharing two pictures that describe my life right now.  I’m sure these pictures probably won’t come as a shock to anyone who has been reading this blog (or anyone who knows me in real life), but it’s part of the challenge … And I want to complete it!

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This is absolutely stunning.  Wow.  Image courtesy of http://www.yelp.com.

As you may have gathered from my Wedding Wednesday posts, I’m in the midst of planning a wedding.  The wedding planning is almost over (hooray!), but it has definitely consumed a large part of my life since Eric and I got engaged last November.

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I was going to take a picture of my own MacBook Pro, but then I did some Googling and determined this picture was too pretty not to use.  Image courtesy of abitcoquettish.wordpress.com.

Since I started blogging, I spend a fair amount of time writing on my laptop.  Although I haven’t been working on any of my other projects lately (a novel I started last year, for instance), this blog has renewed my passion for writing.  

Remember All Their Faces, Remember All Their Voices

For months I’ve been saying that I’ll take the time to write about my experience this summer at Bonnaroo.  Well, today I’m finally going to do just that.

This week’s topic: Bonnaroo.

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This is what we saw as we drove into the campsite area.  It was like a little village.  Personal photo.

Two of my close girlfriends and I went to Seattle last year.  After a wonderful time together, we decided we’d like to try to do another trip in the future.  We started discussing possible options after we returned from Seattle, but many of the places we wanted to go would require some serious funds and planning (like France, for example).  After I got engaged in November, our plans were kind of put on the back burner since I no longer had the kind of extra money required for an elaborate vacation.

We started discussing the possibility of a trip again in the spring, though I was worried I’d let them down … I just really didn’t think I should spend the extra money on a trip when I needed it for wedding related expenses.

At brunch one Sunday morning, I got a wonderful surprise … They offered to pay for my ticket to Bonnaroo as an early wedding gift!  They knew I didn’t feel I could afford to spend the extra $300 on something frivolous, but they also really wanted the three of us to enjoy another trip together.  So I obviously agreed!

A couple of months later, we made the (12+ hour!) drive to Tennessee for the music festival.  Once we arrived, we set up our campsite and prepared ourselves to enjoy a long weekend of music, food, and drinking.

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This was our home for several days.  Please note the Porta-Potties in the background … You know, our only bathroom for several days.  Personal photo.

The great thing about a music festival like Bonnaroo is that there are tons of amazing artists to see.  The bad thing about a music festival like Bonnaroo is that the schedules are so packed (and conflicting!), that it’s impossible to see every band you want to.  We took in as many as we could, but we definitely missed some that we really wanted to see.

Here’s a list of the bands we did manage to catch (if only for a few moments in some cases):

  • Bjork
  • Portugal. The Man
  • alt-J
  • Local Natives
  • Passion Pit
  • Of Monsters and Men
  • Purity Ring
  • The Lumineers
  • Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
  • The National
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  • Cat Power
  • Wu-Tang Clan
  • Walk the Moon
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Calexico
  • Haim
  • Twenty One Pilots
  • Sea Wolf
  • Maps & Atlases

There may have been more … I can’t even remember for sure!  These were the ones that immediately came to mind, though.  There were just so many shows in such a short amount of time that they all sort of blurred together by the end.

Although it was miserably hot most days, although we had to use disgusting Porta-Potties, although none of us showered for 5 long days, and although everything cost a small fortune, it was a great trip.  I’m so glad I was able to experience something like this, especially while I’m still young enough to fully enjoy and appreciate it.  My friends are amazing for buying my ticket so I didn’t have to miss out!  

If you’re as passionate about music as I am, I highly recommend making a trip to a music festival at least once in your life (whether it be Bonnaroo or something else).  I would definitely consider attending another at some point.  Even though I know these festivals are scheduled in such a way that it’s impossible to catch every act, it’s definitely worth it if you can at least see a considerable number of bands and artists you wanted to.  As is obvious from my list above, we were able to make it to quite a few shows (if only for a few songs).  In the end, I’d say it was totally worth the trip!

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Please excuse my sad excuse for photography here … At least you can kind of get the idea.  Personal photo.

I Can See The Pictures On The Floor, Sketches Of What Was There Before

When you’re planning a wedding, there are some things you know will be essential (attire, venue, officiant, etc.) and some things that you can list as “nice extras if money allows.”

Early on, Eric and I decided we really wanted to have a photo booth.  Was it necessary?  No, of course not.  But we thought it would be a really cool thing to have for our guests (especially for those guests who might not be into dancing).

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Image courtesy of http://www.qmeplanners.com.

Our top priority for our reception has always been making it a great time for all of our guests.  With that in mind, we decided a photo booth was important to us.  Although people can obviously have a good time without it, we’re hoping it will make the event more memorable and more fun for everyone.

We also plan to incorporate the photo booth into our guestbook.  Instead of a book filled with signatures that we will literally never look at, we wanted a fun guestbook filled with goofy photo booth pictures of our friends and family along with their well wishes.  That’s something we’ll actually look at for years after the wedding, and something that would be fun to share with any children we have in the future.

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Image courtesy of blog.weddingwire.com.

As I mentioned in my previous Wedding Wednesday post, our officiant gave us some vendor recommendations.  One of those recommendations was for a local photo booth company.  

Eric and I arranged a meeting with the owner of the company, and met up at his home to try out a photo booth and get some additional information.  He was incredibly nice and willing to answer all of our questions.  The photo booth was fun and easy to use, and we loved that there were options to make the photos color or black and white.

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Personal photo.  

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Personal photo.

These are just a few of the very goofy pictures we took in the photo booth during our meeting.  (Yes, I realize these pictures are like the least flattering pictures ever taken of us.  I’m sharing them anyway because, really, who cares?  We had fun taking them, and that’s all that matters!)

As ridiculous as this may sound, I was even more convinced to go with this company after seeing a poster of The Decemberists in the owner’s house.  (See?  Ridiculous!)  This prompted some musical nerdery conversation (my favorite kind!), as Eric and I leafed through sample guestbooks featuring photo booth images.

The visit was most definitely a productive one.  Eric and I ended up signing a contract and paying out the fee (which was reduced with a referral discount from our officiant) in full.  

I’m excited that we’re able to provide this additional entertainment to our guests.  I think most people enjoy taking silly photo booth pictures, so hopefully it will be a big hit!

And All You Ask Is Why I’m Certain You’re Holding On

When I posted about the Crock Pot Beef Tips and Noodles, I mentioned that Eric and I had purchased some beef tips at Costco.  Well, as anyone who has ever shopped at a store like Costco knows, when you buy anything, you’re buying a ton of it.  The beef tips were no exception.  I think we purchased around 5 lbs of beef tips, so I separated them into two large freezer bags containing approximately 2.5 lbs each.  We used one of those bags for the Crock Pot Beef Tips and Noodles, and another for today’s Tasty Tuesday recipe.

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Yeah, I’m not the greatest burrito roller upper (is that even a thing?).  They still tasted amazing!  Personal photo.

This recipe is great because it can be made several ways.  I opted for the crockpot method, so that will be outlined here.  If you’d like to make it in a dutch oven or on the stovetop in a large saucepan, please refer to the original recipe for information on how to do that.

The other great thing about this recipe is that it makes a lot of burritos.  I made 4 the first time around, then placed the meat filling in a container in the refrigerator and made an additional 4 burritos a little later in the week.  They were just as good the second time around, and it was nice to have more “fresh” tasting burritos again (as opposed to just heating up previously broiled burritos).  These burritos are huge as well … One each was plenty for Eric and I.  

Crockpot Chile Colorado Burritos

Recipe taken from Food Pusher (www.food-pusher.com)

Adapted by me!

Ingredient List:

  • 2 to 2.5 lbs beef tips, beef stew meat, or other beef cubed/cut up into small chunks
  • 1 19 oz. or larger can mild red enchilada sauce (I used Las Palmas.  The mild sauce is even a bit spicy, so I wouldn’t recommend using anything spicier unless you and everyone you’ll be serving these burritos to loves really spicy food.)
  • 1 can refried beans (I used refried black beans because that’s a personal favorite of ours.  Regular refried beans would work just as well.)
  • 1 package burrito size flour tortillas (I believe there were 8 tortillas in our package, so that worked perfectly.)
  • 1 cup uncooked white rice (I used white basmati rice because that’s what we had on hand, and it worked well.  Any white rice should work, though, as long as you follow the package instructions.)
  • 1 cup shredded 4 cheese Mexican blend cheese (I used Sargento brand, which, according to the package, includes cheddar, Monterey Jack, queso quesadilla, and asadero cheeses.)
  • 1/2 tsp cilantro
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp chili powder (The amount you use will depend on how spicy you want your burritos.  As I mentioned, the Las Palmas sauce is pretty spicy, so if you go with that brand, less chili powder may be ideal.)
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

Instructions:

1.) Place beef and the majority of the can of mild red enchilada sauce into a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  About 1/3 cup or so of the enchilada sauce should be reserved to pour over the burritos once they are completely assembled.

2.) Near the end of the cook time, the beef should be very tender and flake off when stirred.  At this point, prepare white rice according to package instructions.  Add cilantro to water and rice while cooking for additional flavor.

3.) Combine refried beans, garlic salt, chili powder, and cumin in a medium saucepan; cook on medium low heat for 5-7 minutes or until completely warmed through.

4.) Heat flour tortillas in microwave for approximately 20-30 seconds.  This makes the tortillas slightly more pliable and easier to fold around ingredients.

5.) Place about 1/2 cup or so of the meat mixture on each tortila, draining by using a slotted spoon.  Add a spoonful or two each of cilantro rice and spiced refried beans.

6.) Fold tortilla into a burrito around ingredients and place into a lightly greased 9×13 inch pan.  Repeat for each burrito you plan to make.  If you plan to make more than 4 burritos at once, I’d suggest using a larger pan or using 2 pans of this size.

7.) Pour some of the reserved enchilada sauce over the top of the burritos.  I also added some of the sauce from the crockpot to incorporate more of the meat flavor.  Sprinkle with shredded 4 cheese Mexican blend cheese.

8.) Broil burritos in the oven on low until cheese is bubbly, approximately 2-4 minutes.

9.) Enjoy!  Eric and I ate additional cilantro rice and refried black beans as sides, as we had plenty left even after stuffing our burritos.  If you’re planning to make more than 4 burritos at once, I might recommend using more rice and refried beans (especially if you’d like to have some on the side with your finished burrito).